Campaign 2012 | Third presidential debate
What did you think of the candidates' debate responses?
In the third and final presidential debate, Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama sat across from one another and answered questions from moderator Bob Schieffer. Read the questions and each candidates' initial response, then tell us what you thought about each answer.
Q. The first question concerns Libya. The controversy over what happened there continues. Four Americans are dead, including an American ambassador. Questions remain. What happened? What caused it? Was it spontaneous? Was it an intelligence failure? Was it a policy failure? Was there an attempt to mislead people about what really happened?
In addition, were now able to transition out of Afghanistan in a responsible way, making sure that Afghans take responsibility for their own security. And that allows us also to rebuild alliances and make friends around the world to combat future threats. Now with respect to Libya, as I indicated in the last debate, when we received that phone call, I immediately made sure that, number one, that we did everything we could to secure those Americans who were still in harms way; number two, that we would investigate exactly what happened, and number three, most importantly, that we would go after those who killed Americans and we would bring them to justice. And thats exactly what were going to do.
But I think its important to step back and think about what happened in Libya. Keep in mind that I and Americans took leadership in organizing an international coalition that made sure that we were able to, without putting troops on the ground at the cost of less than what we spent in two weeks in Iraq, liberate a country that had been under the yoke of dictatorship for 40 years. Got rid of a despot who had killed Americans and as a consequence, despite this tragedy, you had tens of thousands of Libyans after the events in Benghazi marching and saying America is our friend. We stand with them.
Now that represents the opportunity we have to take advantage of. And, you know, Governor Romney, Im glad that you agree that we have been successful in going after Al Qaida, but I have to tell you that, you know, your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map and is not designed to keep Americans safe or to build on the opportunities that exist in the Middle East.
This is obviously an area of great concern to the entire world, and to America in particular, which is to see a -- a complete change in the -- the structure and the -- the environment in the Middle East.
With the Arab Spring, came a great deal of hope that there would be a change towards more moderation, and opportunity for greater participation on the part of women in public life, and in economic life in the Middle East. But instead, weve seen in nation after nation, a number of disturbing events. Of course we see in Syria, 30,000 civilians having been killed by the military there. We see in -- in Libya, an attack apparently by, I think we know now, by terrorists of some kind against -- against our people there, four people dead.
Our hearts and -- and minds go out to them. Mali has been taken over, the northern part of Mali by al-Qaeda type individuals. We have in -- in Egypt, a Muslim Brotherhood president. And so what were seeing is a pretty dramatic reversal in the kind of hopes we had for that region. Of course the greatest threat of all is Iran, four years closer to a nuclear weapon. And -- and were going to have to recognize that we have to do as the president has done. I congratulate him on -- on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al-Qaeda.
But we cant kill our way out of this mess. Were going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the -- the world of Islam and other parts of the world, reject this radical violent extremism, which is -- its certainly not on the run.
Its certainly not hiding. This is a group that is now involved in 10 or 12 countries, and it presents an enormous threat to our friends, to the world, to America, long term, and we must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism.
Follow-up response to first question on Libya:
But Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.
You say that youre not interested in duplicating what happened in Iraq. But just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now. And the -- the challenge we have -- I know you havent been in a position to actually execute foreign policy -- but every time youve offered an opinion, youve been wrong. You said we should have gone into Iraq, despite that fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction.
You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day. You indicated that we shouldnt be passing nuclear treaties with Russia despite the fact that 71 senators, Democrats and Republicans, voted for it. You said that, first, we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan. Then you said we should. Now you say maybe or it depends, which means not only were you wrong, but you were also confusing in sending mixed messages both to our troops and our allies.
So, what -- what we need to do with respect to the Middle East is strong, steady leadership, not wrong and reckless leadership that is all over the map. And unfortunately, thats the kind of opinions that youve offered throughout this campaign, and it is not a recipe for American strength, or keeping America safe over the long haul.
We dont want another Iraq, we dont want another Afghanistan. Thats not the right course for us. The right course for us is to make sure that we go after the -- the people who are leaders of these various anti-American groups and these -- these jihadists, but also help the Muslim world.
And how do we do that? A group of Arab scholars came together, organized by the U.N., to look at how we can help the -- the world reject these -- these terrorists. And the answer they came up with was this:
One, more economic development. We should key our foreign aid, our direct foreign investment, and that of our friends, we should coordinate it to make sure that we -- we push back and give them more economic development.
Number two, better education. Number three, gender equality. Number four, the rule of law. We have to help these nations create civil societies.
But whats been happening over the last couple of years is, as weve watched this tumult in the Middle East, this rising tide of chaos occur, you see Al Qaida rushing in, you see other jihadist groups rushing in. And -- and theyre throughout many nations in the Middle East.
Its wonderful that Libya seems to be making some progress, despite this terrible tragedy.
But next door, of course, we have Egypt. Libyas 6 million population; Egypt, 80 million population. We want -- we want to make sure that were seeing progress throughout the Middle East. With Mali now having North Mali taken over by Al Qaida; with Syria having Assad continuing to -- to kill, to murder his own people, this is a region in tumult.
And, of course, Iran on the path to a nuclear weapon, weve got real (inaudible).
Q. The war in Syria has now spilled over into Lebanon. We have, what, more than 100 people that were killed there in a bomb. There were demonstrations there, eight people dead. Mr. President, its been more than a year since you saw -- you told Assad he had to go. Since then, 30,000 Syrians have died. Weve had 300,000 refugees. The war goes on. Hes still there. Should we reassess our policy and see if we can find a better way to influence events there? Or is that even possible? And you go first, sir.
But ultimately, Syrians are going to have to determine their own future. And so everything were doing, were doing in consultation with our partners in the region, including Israel which obviously has a huge interest in seeing what happens in Syria; coordinating with Turkey and other countries in the region that have a great interest in this.
This -- what were seeing taking place in Syria is heartbreaking, and thats why we are going to do everything we can to make sure that we are helping the opposition. But we also have to recognize that, you know, for us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step, and we have to do so making absolutely certain that we know who we are helping; that were not putting arms in the hands of folks who eventually could turn them against us or allies in the region.
And I am confident that Assads days are numbered. But what we cant do is to simply suggest that, as Governor Romney at times has suggested, that giving heavy weapons, for example, to the Syrian opposition is a simple proposition that would lead us to be safer over the long term.
Syria is Irans only ally in the Arab world. Its their route to the sea. Its the route for them to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, which threatens, of course, our ally, Israel. And so seeing Syria remove Assad is a very high priority for us. Number two, seeing a -- a replacement government being responsible people is critical for us. And finally, we dont want to have military involvement there. We dont want to get drawn into a military conflict.
And so the right course for us, is working through our partners and with our own resources, to identify responsible parties within Syria, organize them, bring them together in a -- in a form of -- if not government, a form of -- of -- of council that can take the lead in Syria. And then make sure they have the arms necessary to defend themselves. We do need to make sure that they dont have arms that get into the -- the wrong hands. Those arms could be used to hurt us down the road. We need to make sure as well that we coordinate this effort with our allies, and particularly with -- with Israel.
But the Saudis and the Qatari, and -- and the Turks are all very concerned about this. Theyre willing to work with us. We need to have a very effective leadership effort in Syria, making sure that the -- the insurgent there are armed and that the insurgents that become armed, are people who will be the responsible parties. Recognize -- I believe that Assad must go. I believe he will go. But I believe -- we want to make sure that we have the relationships of friendship with the people that take his place, steps that in the years to come we see Syria as a -- as a friend, and Syria as a responsible party in the Middle East.
This -- this is a critical opportunity for America. And what Im afraid of is weve watched over the past year or so, first the president saying, well well let the U.N. deal with it. And Assad -- excuse me, Kofi Annan came in and said were going to try to have a ceasefire. That didnt work. Then it went to the Russians and said, lets see if you can do something. We should be playing the leadership role there, not on the ground with military.
Q. Mr. President, during the Egyptian turmoil, there came a point when you said it was time for President Mubarak to go. Some in your administration thought perhaps we should have waited a while on that. Do you have any regrets about that?
But what Ive also said is that now that you have a democratically elected government in Egypt, that they have to make sure that they take responsibility for protecting religious minorities. And we have put significant pressure on them to make sure theyre doing that; to recognize the rights of women, which is critical throughout the region. These countries cant develop if young women are not given the kind of education that they need.
They have to abide by their treaty with Israel. That is a red line for us, because not only is Israels security at stake, but our security is at stake if that unravels.
They have to make sure that theyre cooperating with us when it comes to counterterrorism.
And we will help them with respect to developing their own economy, because ultimately whats going to make the Egyptian revolution successful for the people of Egypt, but also for the world, is if those young people who gathered there are seeing opportunities.
Their aspirations are similar to young peoples here. They want jobs, they want to be able to make sure their kids are going to a good school. They want to make sure that they have a roof over their heads and that they have the prospects of a better life in the future.
And so one of the things that weve been doing is, is, for example, organizing entrepreneurship conferences with these Egyptians to give them a sense of how they can start rebuilding their economy in a way thats noncorrupt, thats transparent. But what is also important for us to understand is, is that for America to be successful in this region theres some things that were going to have to do here at home as well.
You know, one of the challenges over the last decade is weve done experiments in nation building in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and weve neglected, for example, developing our own economy, our own energy sectors, our own education system. And its very hard for us to project leadership around the world when were not doing what we need to do...
I wish that, looking back at the beginning of the presidents term and even further back than that, that wed have recognized that there was a growing energy and passion for freedom in that part of the world, and that we would have worked more aggressively with our friend and with other friends in the region to have them make the transition towards a more representative form of government, such that it didnt explode in the way that it did.
But once it exploded, I felt the same as the president did, which is these freedom voices and the streets of Egypt, where the people who were speaking of our principles and the President Mubarak had done things which were unimaginable and the idea of him crushing his people was not something that we could possibly support.
Let me step back and talk about what I think our mission has to be in the Middle East and even more broadly, because our purpose is to make sure the world is more -- is peaceful. We want a peaceful planet. We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know theyre going to have a bright and prosperous future, not be at war. Thats our purpose.
And the mantle of leadership for the -- promoting the principles of peace has fallen to America. We didnt ask for it. But its an honor that we have it.
But for us to be able to promote those principles of peace requires us to be strong. And that begins with a strong economy here at home. Unfortunately, the economy is not stronger. When the -- when the president of Iraq -- excuse me, of Iran, Ahmadinejad, says that our debt makes us not a great country, thats a frightening thing.
Former chief of the -- Joint Chiefs of Staff said that -- Admiral Mullen said that our debt is the biggest national security threat we face. This -- we have weakened our economy. We need a strong economy.
We need to have as well a strong military. Our military is second to none in the world. Were blessed with terrific soldiers, and extraordinary technology and intelligence. But the idea of a trillion dollar in cuts through sequestration and budget cuts to the military would change that. We need to have strong allies. Our association and connection with our allies is essential to Americas strength. Were the great nation that has allies, 42 allies and friends around the world.
And, finally, we have to stand by our principles. And if were strong in each of those things, American influence will grow. But unfortunately, in nowhere in the world is Americas influence will grow. But unfortunately, in -- nowhere in the world is Americas influence greater today than it was four years ago.
Q. What is Americas role in the world? What do each of you see as our role in the world, and I believe, Governor Romney, its your chance to go first.
It also allowed us to refocus on alliances and relationships that had been neglected for a decade.
And Governor Romney, our alliances have never been stronger, in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, with Israel, where we have unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation, including dealing with the Iranian threat.
But what we also have been able to do is position ourselves so we can start rebuilding America, and thats what my plan does. Making sure that were bringing manufacturing back to our shores so that were creating jobs here, as weve done with the auto industry, not rewarding companies that are shipping jobs overseas.
Making sure that weve got the best education system in the world, including retraining our workers for the jobs of tomorrow.
Doing everything we can to control our own energy. Weve cut our oil imports to the lowest level in two decades because weve developed oil and natural gas. But we also have to develop clean energy technologies that will allow us to cut our exports in half by 2020. Thats the kind of leadership that we need to show.
And weve got to make sure that we reduce our deficit. Unfortunately, Governor Romneys plan doesnt do it. Weve got to do it in a responsible way by cutting out spending we dont need, but also asking the wealthiest to pay a little bit more. That way we can invest in the research and technology thats always kept us at the cutting edge.
Now, Governor Romney has taken a different approach throughout this campaign. Both at home and abroad, he has proposed wrong and reckless policies. Hes praised George Bush as a good economic steward and Dick Cheney as somebody whos -- who shows great wisdom and judgment. And taking us back to those kinds of strategies that got us into this mess are not the way that we are going to maintain leadership in the 21st century.
We want to end those conflicts to the extent humanly possible. But in order to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong. America must lead. And for that to happen, we have to strengthen our economy here at home. You cant have 23 million people struggling to get a job. You cant have an economy that over the last three years keeps slowing down its growth rate. You cant have kids coming out of college, half of them cant find a job today, or a job thats commensurate with their college degree. We have to get our economy going.
And our military, weve got to strengthen our military long-term. We dont know what the world is going to throw at us down the road. We -- we make decisions today in the military that -- that will confront challenges we cant imagine. In the 2000 debates, there was no mention of terrorism, for instance. And a year later, 9/11 happened. So, we have to make decisions based upon uncertainty, and that means a strong military. I will not cut our military budget. We have to also stand by our allies. I -- I think the tension that existed between Israel and the United States was very unfortunate.
I think also that pulling our missile defense program out of Poland in the way we did was also unfortunate in terms of, if you will, disrupting the relationship in some ways that existed between us.
And then, of course, with regards to standing for our principles, when -- when the students took to the streets in Tehran and the people there protested, the Green Revolution occurred, for the president to be silent I thought was an enormous mistake. We have to stand for our principles, stand for our allies, stand for a strong military and stand for a stronger economy.
Q. Would either of you be willing to declare that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States, which, of course, is the same promise that we give to our close allies like Japan. And if you made such a declaration, would not that deter Iran? Its certainly deterred the Soviet Union for a long, long time when we made that -- we made -- we made that promise to our allies.
I will stand with Israel if they are attacked. And this is the reason why, working with Israel, we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history.
In fact, this week well be carrying out the largest military exercise with Israel in history, this very week. But to the issue of Iran, as long as Im president of the United States Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. I made that clear when I came into office.
We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in a shambles.
And the reason we did this is because a nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security, and it is a threat to Israels national security. We cannot afford to have a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.
Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. And for them to be able to provide nuclear technology to non-state actors, thats unacceptable. And they have said that they want to see Israel wiped off the map.
So the work that weve done with respect to sanctions now offers Iran a choice. They can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program or they will have to face a united world and a United States president, me, who said were not going to take any options off the table.
The disagreement I have with Governor Romney is that, during the course of this campaign, hes often talked as if we should take premature military action. I think that would be a mistake, because when Ive sent young men and women into harms way, I always understand that that is the last resort, not the first resort.
And if Israel is attacked, we have their back, not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily. Thats number one.
Number two, with regards to Iran and the threat of Iran, theres no question but that a nuclear Iran, a nuclear-capable Iran is unacceptable to America. It presents a threat not only to our friends but ultimately a threat to us to have Iran have nuclear material, nuclear weapons that could be used against us or used to be threatening to us.
It is also essential for us to understand what our mission is in Iran, and that is to dissuade Iran from having a nuclear weapon through peaceful and diplomatic means. And crippling sanctions are something I called for five years ago, when I was in Israel, speaking at the Herzliya Conference. I laid out seven steps, crippling sanctions were number one. And they do work. Youre seeing it right now in the economy. Its absolutely the right thing to do, to have crippling sanctions. I would have put them in place earlier. But its good that we have them.
Number two, something I would add today is I would tighten those sanctions. I would say that ships that carry Iranian oil, cant come into our ports. I imagine the E.U. would agree with us as well. Not only ships couldnt, but Id say companies that are moving their oil cant, people who are trading in their oil cant. I would tighten those sanctions further. Secondly, Id take on diplomatic isolation efforts. Id make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it. I would also make sure that their diplomats are treated like the pariah they are around the world. The same way we treated the apartheid diplomats of South Africa.
We need to increase pressure time, and time again on Iran because anything other than a -- a -- a solution to this, which says -- which stops this -- this nuclear folly of theirs, is unacceptable to America. And of course, a military action is the last resort. It is something one would only - only consider if all of the other avenues had been -- had been tried to their full extent.
Q. As you know, there are reports that Iran and the United States a part of an international group, have agreed in principle to talks about Irans nuclear program. What is the deal, if there are such talks? What is the deal that you would accept?
There -- there are people in Iran who have the same aspirations as people all around the world for a better life. And we hope that their leadership takes the right decision, but the deal well accept is they end their nuclear program. Its very straightforward. And Im glad that Governor Romney agrees with the steps that were taking. You know, there have been times, Governor, frankly, during the course of this campaign, where it sounded like you thought that youd do the same things we did, but youd say them louder and somehow that -- that would make a difference.
And it turns out that the work involved in setting up these crippling sanctions is painstaking. Its meticulous. We started from the day we got into office. And the reason is was so important -- and this is a testament to how weve restored American credibility and strength around the world -- is we had to make sure that all the countries participated, even countries like Russia and China. Because if its just us that are imposing sanctions -- weve had sanctions in place a long time. Its because we got everybody to agree that Iran is seeing so much pressure. And weve got to maintain that pressure.
There is a deal to be had, and that is that they abide by the rules that have already been established. They convince the international community they are not pursuing a nuclear program. There are inspections that are very intrusive. But over time, what they can do is regain credibility. In the meantime, though, were not going to let up the pressure until we have clear evidence that that takes place.
And one last thing -- just -- just to make this point. The clock is ticking. Were not going to allow Iran to perpetually engage in negotiations that lead nowhere. And Ive been very clear to them. You know, because of the intelligence coordination that we do with a range of countries, including Israel, we have a sense of when they would get breakout capacity, which means that we would not be able to intervene in time to stop their nuclear program.
And that clock is ticking. And were going to make sure that if they do not meet the demands of the international community, then we are going to take all options necessary to make sure they dont have a nuclear weapon.
I think they saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength. And I say that because from the very beginning, the president in his campaign four years ago, said he would meet with all the worlds worst actors in his first year, hed sit down with Chavez and Kim Jong-il, with Castro and President Ahmadinejad of Iran.
And I think they looked and thought, well, thats an unusual honor to receive from the President of the United States. And then the president began what I have called an apology tour, of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness.
Then when there were dissidents in the streets of Tehran, a Green Revolution, holding signs saying, is America with us, the president was silent. I think they noticed that as well.
And I think that when the president said he was going to create daylight between ourselves and Israel, that they noticed that as well.
All of these things suggested, I think, to the Iranian mullahs that, hey, you know, we can keep on pushing along here, we can keep talks going on, were just going to keep on spinning centrifuges.
Now there are some 10,000 centrifuges spinning uranium, preparing to create a nuclear threat to the United States and to the world. Thats unacceptable for us, and its essential for a president to show strength from the very beginning, to make it very clear what is acceptable and not acceptable.
And an Iranian nuclear program is not acceptable to us. They must not develop nuclear capability. And the way to make sure they understand that is by having, from the very beginning, the tightest sanctions possible. They need to be tightened. Our diplomatic isolation needs to be tougher. We need to indict Ahmadinejad. We need to put the pressure on them as hard as we possibly can, because if we do that, we wont have to take the military action.
Q. The United States is scheduled to turn over responsibility for security in Afghanistan to the Afghan government in 2014. At that point, we will withdraw our combat troops, leave a smaller force of Americans, if I understand our policy, in Afghanistan for training purposes. It seems to me the key question here is: What do you do if the deadline arrives and it is obvious the Afghans are unable to handle their security? Do we still leave?
And we are now in a position where we have met many of the objectives that got us there in the first place.
Part of what had happened is wed forgotten why we had gone. We went because there were people who were responsible for 3,000 American deaths. And so we decimated Al Qaidas core leadership in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
We then started to build up Afghan forces. And were now in a position where we can transition out, because theres no reason why Americans should die when Afghans are perfectly capable of defending their own country.
Now, that transition has to take place in a responsible fashion. Weve been there a long time, and weve got to make sure that we and our coalition partners are pulling out responsibly and giving Afghans the capabilities that they need.
But what I think the American people recognize is after a decade of war its time to do some nation building here at home. And what we can now do is free up some resources, to, for example, put Americans back to work, especially our veterans, rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our schools, making sure that, you know, our veterans are getting the care that they need when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, making sure that the certifications that they need for good jobs of the future are in place.
You know, I was having lunch with some -- a veteran in Minnesota who had been a medic dealing with the most extreme circumstances. When he came home and he wanted to become a nurse, he had to start from scratch. And what weve said is lets change those certifications. The first lady has done great work with an organization called Joining Forces putting our veterans back to work. And as a consequence, veterans unemployment is actually now lower than general population. It was higher when I came into office.
So those are the kinds of things that we can now do because were making that transition in Afghanistan.
Weve seen progress over the past several years. The surge has been successful and the training program is proceeding apace. There are now a large number of Afghan Security Forces, 350,000 that are ready to step in to provide security and were going to be able to make that transition by the end of 2014.
So our troops will come home at that point.
I can tell you at the same time, that we will make sure that we look at whats happening in Pakistan, and recognize that whats happening in Pakistan is going to have a major impact on the success in Afghanistan. And I say that because I know a lot of people that feel like we should just brush our hands and walk away.
And I dont mean you, Mr. President, but some people in the -- in our nation feel that Pakistan is being nice to us, and that we should walk away fro mthem. But Pakistan is important to the region, to the world and to us, because Pakistan has 100 nuclear warheads and theyre rushing to build a lot more. Theyll have more than Great Britain sometime in the -- in the relatively near future.
They also have the Haqqani Network and the Taliban existent within their country. And so a Pakistan that falls apart, becomes a failed state, would be of extraordinary danger to Afghanistan and to us.
And so were going to have to remain helpful in encouraging Pakistan to move towards a more stable government and rebuild the relationship with us. And that means that our aid that we provide to Pakistan is going to have to be conditioned upon certain benchmarks being met.
So for me, I look at this as both a need to help move Pakistan in the right direction, and also to get Afghanistan to be ready, and they will be ready by the end of 2014.
Q. It is the rise of China and future challenges for America. I want to just begin this by asking both of you ... what do you believe is the greatest future threat to the national security of this country?
So my attitude coming into office was that we are going to insist that China plays by the same rules as everybody else.
I know Americans had seen jobs being shipped overseas; businesses and workers not getting a level playing field when it came to trade. And thats the reason why I set up a trade task force to go after cheaters when it came to international trade. Thats the reason why we have brought more cases against China for violating trade rules than the other -- the previous administration had done in two terms. And weve won just about every case that weve filed, that has been decided.
In fact, just recently steelworkers in Ohio and throughout the Midwest -- Pennsylvania -- are in a position now to sell steel to China because we won that case. We had a tire case in which they were flooding us with cheap domestic tires -- or -- or cheap Chinese tires. And we put a stop to it and as a consequence saved jobs throughout America. I have to say that Governor Romney criticized me for being too tough in that tire case; said this wouldnt be good for American workers and that it would be protectionist.
But I tell you, those workers dont feel that way. They feel as if they had finally an administration who was going to take this issue seriously.
Over the long term, in order for us to compete with China, weve also got to make sure, though, that were taking -- taking care of business here at home. If we dont have the best education system in the world, if we dont continue to put money into research and technology that will allow us to create great businesses here in the United States, thats how we lose the competition. And, unfortunately, Governor Romneys budget and his proposals would not allow us to make those investments.
Let me also note that the greatest threat that the world faces, the greatest national security threat is a nuclear Iran.
Lets talk about China. China has an interest thats very much like ours in one respect, and that is they want a stable world. They dont want war. They dont want to see protectionism. They dont want to see the world break out into -- into various forms of chaos, because they have to -- they have to manufacture goods and put people to work and they have about 20,000 -- 20 million, rather, people coming out of the farms every year coming into the cities, needing jobs.
So they want the economy to work and the world to be free and open. And so we can be a partner with China. We dont have to be an adversary in any way, shape or form. We can work with them, we can collaborate with them, if theyre willing to be responsible.
Now, they look at us and say, Is it a good idea to be with America? How strong are we going to be? How strong is our economy? They look at the fact that we owe em a trillion dollars and owe other people $16 trillion in total, including that.
They look at our -- our decision to -- to cut back on our military capabilities. A trillion dollars. The secretary of defense called these trillion dollars of cuts to our military devastating. Its not my term, its the presidents own secretary of defense called these trillion dollars of cuts to our military devastating. Its not my term, its the presidents own Secretary of Defense, called them devastating.
They look at Americas commitments around the world and they see whats happening, and they say, well, OK. Is America going to be strong? And the answer is, yes, if Im president, America will be very strong.
Well also make sure that we have trade relations with China that work for us. Ive watched year in and year out as companies have shut down and people have lost their jobs because China has not played by the same rules, in part by holding down artificially the value of their currency. It holds down the prices of their goods. It means our goods arent as competitive and we lose jobs. Thats got to end.
Theyre making some progress; they need to make more. Thats why on day one, i will label them a currency manipulator, which allows us to apply tariffs where theyre taking jobs. Theyre stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods.
They have to understand we want to trade with them. We want a world thats stable. We like free enterprise, but you got to play by the rules.
Q. Gentlemen, thank you so much for a very vigorous debate. We have come to the end. It is time for closing statements.
And now youve got a choice. Over the last four years weve made real progress digging our way out of policies that gave us two prolonged wars, record deficits and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
And Governor Romney wants to take us back to those policies, a foreign policy thats wrong and reckless, economic policies that wont create jobs, wont reduce our deficit, but will make sure that folks at the very top dont have to play by the same rules that you do.
And Ive got a different vision for America. I want to build on our strengths. And Ive put forward a plan to make sure that were bringing manufacturing jobs back to our shores by rewarding companies and small businesses that are investing here, not overseas.
I want to make sure weve got the best education system in the world. And were retaining our workers for the jobs of tomorrow.
I want to control our own energy by developing oil and natural gas but also the energy sources of the future.
Yes, I want to reduce our deficit by cutting spending that we dont need but also by asking the wealthy to do a little bit more so that we can invest in things like research and technology that are the key to a 21st century economy.
As Commander in Chief, I will maintain the strongest military in the world, keep faith with our troops and go after those who would do us harm. but after a decade of war, I think we all recognize weve got to do some nation building here at home, rebuilding our roads, our bridges and especially caring for our Veterans who sacrificed so much for our freedom.
And weve been through tough times but we always bounce back because of our character, because we pull together and if I have the privilege of being your president for another four years, I promise you I will always listen to your voices. I will fight for your families and I will work every single day to make sure that America continues to be the greatest nation on earth.
We have an opportunity to have real leadership. Americas going to have that kind of leadership and continue to promote principles of peace to make a world a safer place and make people in this country more confident that their future is secure. I also want to make sure that we get this economy going. And there are two very different paths the country can take. One is a path represented by the president, which at the end of four years would mean wed have $20 trillion in debt heading towards Greece. Ill get us on track to a balanced budget.
The presidents path will mean continuing declining in take-home pay. I want to make sure our take-home pay turns around and starts to grow.
The presidents path will mean continuing declining in take-home pay. I want to make sure take-home pay turns around and starts to grow. The presidents path means 20 million people out of work struggling for a good job. Ill get people back to work with 12 million new jobs.
Im going to make sure that we get people off of food stamps, not by cutting the program, but by getting them good jobs.
Americas going to come back, and for that to happen, were going to have to have a president who can work across the aisle. I was in a state where my legislature was 87 percent Democrat. I learned how to get along on the other side of the aisle. Weve got to do that in Washington. Washington is broken. I know what it takes to get this country back, and will work with good Democrats and good Republicans to do that.
This nation is the hope of the earth. Weve been blessed by having a nation thats free and prosperous thanks to the contributions of the greatest generation. Theyve held a torch for the world to see -- the torch of freedom and hope and opportunity. Now, its our turn to take that torch. Im convinced well do it.
We need strong leadership. Id like to be that leader with your support. Ill work with you. Ill lead you in an open and honest way, and I ask for your vote. Id like to be the next president of the United States to support and help this great nation and to make sure that we all together remain America as the hope of the earth.
Thank you so much.