9:00 PM — Bob Schieffer moderating. First topic is the "changing Middle East." Leads with Benghazi attack.
Romney citing trouble in Syria, Egypt, Iran, Libya and Mali, calls for "a robust strategy to get the world of Islam to reject this kind of extremism."
Obama, "making friends" part of the strategy, goes over Benghazi, says he will investigate what happened and go after perpetrators of attack. Segues back to the U.S.-led effort to liberate Libya in less than two weeks.
Notes pro-American march after Benghazi.
Obama first to go aggressive, says Romney’s strategy is all over the map. Romney cites Arab study, calling for foreign aid and developmeht, better education, gender equality, the rule of law.
(Romney had called during the primaries for foreign aid to be reassessed starting from zero. Wonder if Obama brings it up.)
Obama claims Romney inconsistency on greatest threats — Russia or al Qaeda — and on Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq.
Second time Obama (after above) uses "all over the map." Romney pushes back saying Obama shows no policy by attacking him.
Obama "You”ve got to be clear both to our allies and our enemies where you stand and what you mean" and "make sure they are standing by our interests and Israel’s security because it is a true friend and our (closest?) ally in the region."
Above is Obama’s bid to appropriate two Romney critiques: clarity and alliance with Israel.
Obama once again cites Israel, noting its interest in Syria issues (along with Turkey.)
Obama wants to preempt Romney on Israel.
Romney, in response, also cites Israel interest in Syria crisis.
On to Egypt. Obama reiterates Mubarak had to go. But new government must show democratic practice, cooperate with Israel, cooperate with U.S. on counterterrorism.
Romney on vision of America’s role: Promoting democrracy, human rights, fre market and there’s this line:
"I think the tension that existed between Israel and the United States was very unfortunate."
Obama: "Gov. Romney, our alliances have never been stronger … with Israel where we have unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation, including dealing with the Iranian threat."
9:36: Okay, this foreign policy debate has just gone all domestic: Small businesses, jobs, schools.
Back to Israel — what are the Iran red lines.
Obama "Israel is a true friend and it it is our greatest ally in the region." If Israel is attacked, he would "have Israel’s back."
Obama pivots to insinuating that Romney wants war: "During the course of this campaign he’s often talked as if we should take premature military action."
Romney: "If Israel is attacked we have their back." Would tighten sanctions, indict Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for genocide incitement. Military action would be "last resort.
Obama says reports of talks with Iran are not true, but he would welcome talks if Iran gives up (suspected) nuclear weapons program.
Obama: "There is a deal to be had and that is they abide by the rules that have already been established … inspections are very intrusive."
Romney: Iran and others saw "weakness" citing Obama’s willingness to meet with pariah leaders. Uses term "apology tour." "When the president says he’s going to create daylight between us and Israel."
Obama pushes back on "apology tour," noting fact checkers agree he never went on such a tour. Says Iran is now weaker than it has been in years.
Romney on Obama’s 2009 Middle East tour: "By the way, you skipped Israel … and by the way, they noticed you skipped Israel"
Obama pushes back, noting Romney as candidate has not visted troops and went to Israel to fund-raise and: "I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself of the nature of evil" and in Sderot, "I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their bedrooms."
Romney, on the call from Netanyahu that bombers are on the way: "My relationship with Israel is such that we would not get a call that bombers are on the way."
10:13: Romney suggests he could get Israelis and Palestinians back to the table.