Archive for October, 2012

9:00 – Bob Schieffer kicking off the third debate, making his opening statement before introducing Obama and Romney.
Schieffer notes that debate is on 50th anniversary of JFK’s address to the nation during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

9:04 – First question is about Libya.
Romney won the coin toss earlier, so he gets the first question.
Romney reciting list of issues in MENA in aftermath of Arab Spring – Egypt, Libya, Mali, Syria.
Congratulates Obama for getting Osama bin Laden. “We can’t kill our way out of this mess.”
9:07 – Obama response
Notes he ended the war in Iraq.
Re: Libya – Took leadership to organize international coalition to liberate country under yoke of dictatorship for 42 years, for less than cost of 2 weeks in Iraq.
To Romney: “Your strategy has been one that has previously been all over the map.”
Romney: “My strategy is to go after them.”
“We don’t want another Iraq. We don’t want another Afghanistan.”
“Rising tide of chaos” rushing in in the Middle East

Obama: Hits Romney for saying Russia was biggest geopolitical threat. “The Cold War has been over for 20 years.”
“Every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong.”

Romney: “Attacking me is not an agenda.”
Romney and Obama arguing over SOFA in Iraq.

9:16 – Schieffer question about Syria to President Obama… It’s been one year since you told Assad he had to go. 30k Syrians have died, the war goes on. Should we reassess our policy and find better way to influence events there? Is that even possible?
Obama: Doing everything we can to help opposition… Recognize for us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step. Make sure we know who we’re helping. I am confident that Assad’s days are numbered.
Romney: “We don’t want military involvement. We don’t want to get drawn into a conflict there.”
Romney: “I believe that Assad must go. I believe that he will go.”
Obama praises Romney for supporting operation in Libya, but hits him for “mission creep” comment.

9:23 – Schieffer question: During Egyptian turmoil, there came a point you said time for Mubarak to go. Any regrets about that?
Obama: No I don’t. America has to stand with democracy.
Schieffer question to Romney: Would you have stuck with Mubarak?
Romney: No, I supported the president’s action there.
Romney pivots to the economy, quotes Adm. Mike Mullen saying the deficit is our biggest national security threat.

9:28 – Schieffer question: What is America’s role in the world?
Romney: I absolutely believe America has a responsibility and privilege to defend freedom, make the world more peaceful.
Romney hits Obama for not supporting Green Revolution in Iran.
Obama hits Romney for praising George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Romney pivots to the economy, jobs, small business.

9:38 – Schieffer question to Romney: You want to increase military spending for the Navy. Where are you going to get the money?
Romney: Get rid of ObamaCare. Take program after program that we don’t need and get rid of them.
Obama hits Romney on $5 trillion tax cut and $2 trillion on military spending.
Obama: “The math simply doesn’t work.”
Romney responds by saying he was governor, balanced budgets, ran the Olympics.
Romney talking about size of Navy in 1916. Washington Post factcheck on this talking point here.
Ouch… brutal Obama rebuttal

9:45 – Schieffer question – would either of you be willing to declare an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States?
Obama: “As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.”
Romney: If Israel is attacked, we have their back.
Romney calls for Ahmadinejad to be indicted for his words under the Genocide Convention.
Obama: “We’re not going to allow Iran to perpetually engage in negotiations that lead nowhere.” “That clock is ticking.”
Romney brings up the apology tour…
Obama: “Nothing Governor Romney said was true. This has been the biggest whopper of this campaign.”
Romney: “We are four years closer to a nuclear Iran.”
Romney hits Obama for skipping Israel trip during his tour of the Middle East.
Ouch… Obama hits Romney on Israel trip. – When I went to Israel as a presidential candidate, I didn’t travel with donors and go to fundraisers, which Romney did during his trip earlier this year.
Romney: “I don’t see our influence growing around the world. I see our influence receding.”
Obama: “Governor, the problem is you’ve been all over the map.”
Obama hits Romney for saying in 2007-2008 campaign it wasn’t worth moving heaven and earth to go after Osama bin Laden.

10:04 – Schieffer question: US scheduled to turn over Afghan security in 2014. Key question: what do you do if deadline arrives and it is obvious Afghans unable to handle their security. Do we still leave?
Romney: Warns of dangers of unstable Pakistan with nuclear weapons.
Obama: In position we can transition out. No reason Americans should die when Afghans perfectly capable of taking care of their own country.
Obama: After a decade at war, it’s time to do some nation building here at home.

10:09 – Schieffer: General Allen says Americans continue to die at the hands of groups supported by Pakistan, yet we continue to give Pakistan billions of dollars. Is it time to divorce Pakistan?
Romney: No, it’s not time to divorce Pakistan.
Schieffer: What is your position on use of drones?
Romney: Should use any means to protect our people and allies around the world.
Obama: Notes that his administration supported protest/pro-democratic movements in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

10:14 – Schieffer pivots to next topic, China.
Obama: China an adversary and also a potential partner in the international community if it plays by the rules
We won just about every case filed against China with the WTO.
Romney criticized me for being too tough, protectionist in that tire case. Those workers don’t feel that way.
Schieffer to Romney: If you declare China a currency manipulator on day one, aren’t you risking a trade war?
Obama hits Rommey: “Governor Romney’s right. You are familiar with jobs shipped overseas…”
Romney: “I would do nothing to hurt the American auto industry.”
10:15 – Still 15 minutes to go in the debate, and the Obama campaign is already declaring victory on its Facebook page.
Obama to Romney re auto bailout: “You keep on trying to airbrush history.”

10:29 – Closing statements, Obama goes first.
Romney giving his closing statement.

10:34 – Game over… Now for the final two-week stretch to the finish line.


Here’s a brief reading list on the major issues likely to come up during tonight’s final presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.


Los Angeles Times: No evidence found of Al Qaeda role in Libya attack
Washington Post: CIA documents supported Susan Rice’s description of Benghazi attacks


New York Times: U.S. Officials Say Iran Has Agreed to Nuclear Talks
New York Times: U.S. and Iran Deny Plan for Nuclear Talks
ProPublica: Reading Guide: Where Obama and Romney Actually Stand on Iran
Foreign Policy: Don’t Assume Iran Is the Greatest Threat
Reuters: Obama faces tough call on Iran oil sanctions


The Guardian: Syria will be a defining issue of the next US presidency
Newsday: Obama and Romney: Where they stand on Syria


Haaretz: Israel’s former Mossad chief urges dialogue with Iran, calls Obama policy ‘brave’


New York Times: Two Campaigns Skirt Talk of Tough Choices in Afghanistan


Washington Post: Obama, Romney differ less on China trade, investment issues than they claim
New York Times: On China Currency, Hot Topic in Debate, Truth Is Nuanced


Bureau of Investigative Journalism: Obama’s five rules for covert drone strikes


Mitt Romney foreign policy speech at Virginia Military Institute, October 8, 2012.
Barack Obama 2012 address before the UN General Assembly, September 25, 2012.


Foreign Policy: The Foreign Policy Super Bowl
Foreign Policy: Fight Night
Global Post: Binders Full of Foreign Policy
Wall Street Journal: Guide: Obama vs. Romney on China, Iran, Syria
CNN: Obama’s foreign policy on trial
Defense News: Obama, Romney To Debate Global Threats, Military Spending

And to wrap things up on a lighter note…

The Onion: Romney Campaign Releases New Picture Of Candidate Standing In Situation Room During Bin Laden Raid

By now, most of you have seen this exchange between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama about the attack on the diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya in which four Americans were killed on September 11:

Here’s the transcript of that exchange:

CROWLEY: Because we’re — we’re closing in, I want to still get a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the governor just quickly.

Your secretary of state, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?

OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I’m the president and I’m always responsible, and that’s why nobody’s more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.

The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime.

And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.

And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president, that’s not what I do as Commander in Chief.

CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to…

ROMNEY: Yes, I — I…

CROWLEY: … quickly to this please.

ROMNEY: I — I think interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That’s what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.

It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror…

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He — he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take — it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

The key – and largely unnoticed – part of this exchange was not Candy Crowley’s factcheck of Romney. Rather, it was President Obama’s gentle nudge to “Please proceed, governor.” Having watched that Libya exchange replayed several times on the news over the past two days, I couldn’t help but notice Obama’s poker face as he said this. It reminds me of Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous phrase, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

Obama got the first response to the question, and Romney was clearly chomping at the bit to respond because he and the Republican party view the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack as a political liability to be exploited. Looking back on it, it seems as if Obama saw where Romney was heading with his attack and rather than cut him off, encouraged him to continue with his train of thought and he played right into Obama’s hands.

Jon Stewart weighed in on it during last night’s Daily Show (scroll to 1:38 in the clip).

We’re a few minutes away from showtime… Watch this space.

9:02 – Candidates walk out…
9:03 – First question from a first-time voter, a college student. Asks how he can support himself and get a job after school. Romney gets the first question after winning a coin toss earlier today.
Romney: When do you graduate? (2014) Presuming I’m president in 2014, I’m going to make sure you get a job.
9:05 – Obama response: The future is bright. I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country. Romney said let Detroit go bankrupt. Obama hits Romney on auto bailout within first minute of his response.
9:08 – Followup question by Candy Crowley: What about people unemployed six months or more, long-term unemployed who need a job right now?
Romney – We have fewer people working today than when the president took office. If you calculate people who stopped looking for work, unemployment rate would be 10.7 percent.
Romney plugs his 12 million jobs in 4 years proposal.
Romney to Obama: “You took Detroit bankrupt.”
Obama rebutall: “Candy, what Governor Romney said just isn’t true.”
Obama: Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan, he has a one-point plan.

9:11 – Second question: Energy Secretary on record saying it’s not the policy of Energy Department to lower gas prices. Do you agree?
Obama – we’ve increased oil production to highest in 16 years, increases in coal production. Can’t just produce traditional sources of energy, need to look to the future.
Basically, Romney’s plan is to let the oil companies write the energy policy.
9:14 – Romney rebuttal: production on federal lands down.
What was the cost? 2–25 birds killed, brought out the Migratory Bird Act.
Romney hits Obama on Keystone XL pipeline.

Candy Crowley followup: Are we looking at the new normal here?
Obama – Gas demand on the rise, but so is gas production.
What he said was not true.
Obama and Romney going at it, Obama repeatedly saying what he says is not true, Romney repeatedly pressing him to answer the question.
Looks like rules set by both campaigns in the Memorandum of Understanding went out the window.
Obama points out Grassley favors wind tax credit that Romney opposes… Specifically targeting Iowa voters

9:24 – Third question: asking about tax deductions important to the middle class.
Romney mentions middle class buried last 4 years, a reference to Biden gaffe which went unmentioned during VP debate.
Obama rebuttal: I’ve cut taxes for middle class families and small businesses. Want to continue those tax cuts for middle class families and small businesses. If we’re serious about deficit reduction, in addition to spending cuts, wealthy have to do a bit more.
Obama hits Romney for 60 Minutes interview quote about it being fair he pays lower tax rate
Romney rebuttal: trying to push back on Obama by tying unemployment rate to low taxes.
Again pushes 5-point economic plan.

9:32 Crowley follow-up question: Romney says tax cut not going to top 5 percent… Settled?
Obama: No, it’s not settled! What he wants to do costs about $5 trillion, defense spending another $2 trillion, continue the Bush tax cuts, that’s $8 trillion. How are you going to do it? He can’t tell you.
Big Bird!
Obama has the soundbite of the night so far – “sketchy deal”
Romney rebuttal: Cites his business record, Olympics experience.

Question: How do you rectify inequalities in workplace, women who make less than men?
9:37 – Obama: Mentions his upbringing by single mom and his grandmother.
Mentions his signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Act.
Romney rebuttal: When I was governor, all applicants were men.
My government had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state.
Obama: Hits Romney campaign for not having a position on whether they supported Lilly Ledbetter Act.
Also mentions contraception coverage in health care and Planned Parenthood funding.

Question: Disappointed with lack of progress in last 4 years. Attribute problems in economics and abroad to missteps of President Bush. Fear return to policies of those years. What is difference between you and George W. Bush?
9:45 – Romney: President Bush and I different people, different times. My 5-point plan different than what he would have done.
Trade – I’ll crack down on China, President Bush didn’t.
Romney on Obama: “His forecast for the next four years is more deficits”

Obama rebuttal: We have been digging our way out of policies misplaced and focused for the top doing very well. 31 consecutive months of job growth.
When Romney says he has diff econ plan, the centerpiece of his economic plan is tax cuts.
Obama: “Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China.”

Question: Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. Why should I vote for you again?
9:52 Obama recites list of pledges he’s accomplished…
Commitments I’ve made I’ve kept. Those I haven’t not for lack of trying, and will do in a second term.
Romney rebuttal: “I think you know better.”
Per CNN timekeeping, President Obama has spoken about 5 minutes more than Governor Romney.

Question: What do you plan on doing about immigrants without green cards who are productive members of society?
Questioner has a Freudian slip, addresses “President Romney.”
Romney: We are a nation of immigrants. Notes that his father was born in Mexico.
I will not grant amnesty.
Military service a pathway to becoming permanent resident.
Notes that President Obama promised to reform immigration in his first term, hadn’t done it.
10:01 Obama rebuttal: Need to fix broken immigration system.
Go after gangbangers, not students
Notes Romney would have vetoed the DREAM Act, hits him on self-deportation.
Romney rebuttal: E-verify portion of the Arizona law a model for the nation.
I asked a question – why when you said you would get legislation in first year and you didn’t do it?
Self-deportation: I said we’re not going to round up 12 million illegals, let them make their own choice.
Obama and Romney getting testy again: Obama – I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours… (audience laughs)
Obama hits Romney for having Kris Kobach, author of Arizona immigration law, as his immigration adviser.

Question: State Department refused extra security for Benghazi. Who denied it and why?
10:09 – Obama: These people are my representatives. No one more concerned about their safety and security than I am.
Hits Romney for trying to politicize Libya attack.
“When it comes to national security, I mean what I say.”
Romney rebuttal: Hits Obama for going to Vegas fundraiser after Benghazi victims memorial service.
Pivots to Israel and Syria, hits Obama for “apology tour.”

Crowley follow up: Does the buck stop with Hillary Clinton?
Obama: Hillary works for me. I am responsible.

Question: What are you planning to do to limit availability of assault weapons?
10:17 – Obama: Nation believes in Second Amendment. Instances where I had to comfort families who lost somebody, recently in Aurora.
Romney rebuttal: We don’t want to have automatic weapons, already illegal in this country.
Hits Obama on Fast and Furious gun-running program

Crowley followup: Why did you change your mind?
10:23 Romney: In my state, both sides came together. Mutually agreed piece of legislation. What we need more of. We haven’t had leadership in Washington on bipartisan basis.
Obama rebuttal: “I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it.”

Question: Outsourcing of jobs overseas taken toll on our economy… What plans do you have to keep jobs here in the United States?
10:26 – Romney: Lot of jobs going to China. 500k manufacturing jobs lost in last 4 years.
Made it less attractive for enterprises to come here than to go offshore.
Trickle-down government has never worked here or anywhere else.
I will label China a currency manipulator.
Obama rebuttal: I want to close loopholes… All those changes in our tax code would make a difference.

Crowley follow up: How do you convince companies to bring labor back here?
Romney: Have to make America most attractive place for entrepreneurs. That’s what bring jobs.
Obama: Some jobs not going to come back – low wage, low skill. I want high wage, high skill jobs.

Last question: What do you believe is the biggest misperception the American people have about you as a man and candidate? Opportunity to debunk and set us straight?
10:35 Romney: I care about 100 percent of the American people. I care about our kids.
Romney preempts Obama on 47 percent comments.
Obama rebuttal: I believe free enterprise system is greatest engine of prosperity.
Everybody should have fair shot, do their fair share, play by same rules.
Hits Romney on 47 percent comments
Obama saves 47 percent for his closing comment, when Romney can’t rebut it. Good strategic move.

Game over…

I’ll be live blogging and tweeting the VP debate tonight. Watch this space…

8:50 – Martha Raddatz introduced, takes the podium…
8:52 – Raddatz just referred to Paul Ryan as “Congressman Ryan” from the stage. Did she just violate the terms of the debate?
8:54 – @TheFix: What were the odds on Martha Raddatz mentioning Chamillionaire? 1 trillion to 1? #vpdebate
8:58 – For your amusement, follow Onion Politics on Twitter tonight, who will be tweeting in character as Joe Biden as only they can.

9:02 – Biden and Ryan take the stage Let the games begin…
9:03 – Raddatz opens with a question about Libya, noting today is the one month anniversary of the attack. Was this a massive intelligence failure, Vice President Biden? “It was a tragedy.”
9:05 – Biden pivots response to mention ending war in Iraq, getting Osama bin Laden
Biden channels John McCain’s “gates of hell” comment from 2007 GOP primaries
9:06 – Ryan points out that the US ambassador in France has marines guarding him. Shouldn’t US ambassador in Benghazi have had a marine detachment guarding him?
“What we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy.”
9:09 – Biden: “With all due respect that’s a bunch of malarkey.” (Why?) “With all due respect, not a single thing he said was true.”

9:11 – Biden on administration’s initial story about protest: Intelligence community told us that… they learned more facts and changed their assessment.
9:12 – Raddatz to Ryan: Should US apologize for burning Korans, urinating on corpses. Ryan – Yes. For urinating on corpses. Not for US values.
9:14 – Good/tough question from Raddatz for both candidates: How effective would a military strike on Iran be?
9:16 – Biden on administration handling of Iran: “These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions.”
9:18 – Ryan hits Obama for going on The View while in New York City but not meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu.
9:19 – 20 minutes in, purely from an optics perspective, Biden looks like he’s having more fun with the debate than Obama.

9:23 – Raddatz pivots to the economy.
9:24 – Biden hits Romney for “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” op-ed and 47 percent comments.
9:26 – Ryan asks Romney about the unemployment rate in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
9:28 – Ryan telling story of Mark Nixon, family in MA helped by Romneys after two of his children paralyzed in a car accident.
Ryan zings Romney for gaffes… Biden laughs, responding “But I always mean what I say.”
9:31 – @mollyesque: Biden: “Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy.”
9:32 – Biden hits Ryan for requesting stimulus money for the state of Wisconsin…

9:34 – Raddatz pivots to Medicare
9:37 – Biden mentions Sarah Palin and death panels in rebuttal to Paul Ryan’s opening response. Fact check: Palin’s death panel comment came in 2009, AFTER the Obama administration was in office.
9:38 – Ryan: “They got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.”
9:40 – Some pretty contentious back and forth going on, as Ryan and Biden speaking over and interrupting each other.

9:45 – Raddatz moves on… next question is on taxes. Who will pay more or less in taxes?
9:47 – Looks like the “Mr. Ryan” agreement went out the window. Raddatz and Biden have been referring to him as “Congressman” throughout the debate
9:51 – @TheFix: Dem analysis of debate so far: “Biden rules, Ryan sucks”. GOP analysis of debate so far: “Ryan rules, Biden sucks”. #vpdebate
9:53 – Ryan ALMOST steps in it with a John Kennedy reference… “Now you’re Jack Kennedy?”
9:54 – @DeathStarPR: A little less conversation, a little more lightsaber duel to the death. #VPDebate #Debates

9:55 – Raddatz pivots to defense spending.

9:57 – Raddatz pivots to Afghanistan. Why not leave now? What more can we accomplish?
10:02 – Ryan: “Problems are growing abroad, but jobs aren’t growing here at home.”
10:07 – Are they arguing about Afghan weather and geography?

10:08 – Raddatz pivots to Syria… Why no military action in Syria?
10:10 – @ZekeJMiller: Biden hits Romney for not saying what he’d do in Syria
10:11 – @joshrogin: Biden contradicts State Department on Benghazi security
10:12 – Watching the clock… Biden has spoken a full 3 minutes more than Ryan.
10:13 – Ryan: We should not have called Bashar Assad a reformer. We should not have waited for Russia to give us the green light at the UN.

10:14 – Raddatz asks Biden and Ryan – both Catholics – what role religion plays in their views on abortion.
10:15 – Ryan: “I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life.”
“The policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother.”
10:17 – Biden: “My religion defines who I am. I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life.”
Biden says he accepts church teachings that life begins at conception personally, but won’t impose it on others.

10:21 – Candidates pivot to Supreme Court

10:22 – Raddatz closing question: What would you say to American hero about this campaign? Ever embarrassed about the tone?
10:23 – Biden hits super PACs/Citizens United, calling them an “abomination”
10:24 – Ryan: You had a president run on hope and change 4 years ago who now campaigns on attack, blame and defame.

10:29 – Closing statements… Biden goes first.
10:32 – That’s a wrap. Now onto the Spin Room and post-debate coverage!

Entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp, August 2008

The Atlantic just published my story about Witold Pilecki, a member of the Polish resistance during World War II who volunteered for an assignment inside Auschwitz. Check it out.

Also, I would highly recommend buying a copy of The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery, an English translation of Pilecki’s report about his time in the camp.