Unanswered questions from the debate
October 23rd, 2012
05:11 PM ET

Unanswered questions from the debate

By CNN's National Security Unit

The final debate of the presidential election was notable for all the areas of foreign policy on which the two candidates seemed to agree. But in their answers were plenty of unanswered questions about how they would handle key foreign policy issues going forward.

Where do things stand on Iran?

It was hard to see concrete differences between the candidates Monday on when it will be necessary to use military force against Iran's nuclear program - the so-called "red line."

Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney sought to portray themselves as tough on Iran and as having Israel's back. Both suggested they would be willing to use military power if necessary to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. But neither was exactly clear about what point at which they would act to prevent that from happening.
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Filed under: 2012 Election • Obama • Romney
October 23rd, 2012
05:24 AM ET

Checking Obama and Romney’s facts from Monday’s foreign policy debate

President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney exchanged fire on foreign policy and national security Monday in their last debate before Election Day. With tension in the air and undecided voters at stake, each candidate challenged the other's claims and positions. CNN conducted fact checks on each politician’s assertions. Click on the headlines for more.

CNN Fact Check: Comparing costs of Iraq, Libya missions

President Barack Obama asserted during Monday's presidential debate that it cost the United States less to help oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi than it did to run two weeks of the 2003-2011 war in Iraq.

We can attempt a comparison by examining the Defense Department's spending on the two operations.

CNN Fact Check: Romney, Obama and Iraq

Although it has been over for nearly a year now, the war in Iraq continued to be a flash point in Monday night's debate between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"You say that you're not interested in duplicating what happened in Iraq," said Obama, a Democrat who opposed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. "But just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now. ... You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day."

But Romney, who supported the invasion, said Obama wanted to keep U.S. troops there longer - he just couldn't get the Iraqis to go along.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • debate • Foreign Policy • Obama • Romney
My debate checklist: Center for American Progress' Brian Katulis
October 21st, 2012
05:52 PM ET

My debate checklist: Center for American Progress' Brian Katulis

By Brian Katulis, Special to CNN

EDITOR’S NOTE: Brian Katulis is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, where his work focuses on U.S. national security policy in the Middle East and South Asia. The views expressed are his own.

If we've learned one thing about Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's foreign policy views during this campaign, it's that he's heavy on rhetoric and ideology but light on details.

For the past year, Romney has consistently failed to provide a clear alternative to President Obama's foreign policy program that goes beyond vague speechifying about "strength" and "leadership." Throughout the campaign, it became increasingly clear that Romney's rhetoric isn't an attempt to cover up an empty foreign policy agenda - it is the policy agenda.

There is a similarity between Romney's foreign and economic policy packages on this score. As economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote this past week, "the true plan is to provide an economic stimulus in the form of Romney's awesome awesomeness; the cover story is the pretense of having an actual program."

But relying on rhetoric in a debate format is harder to do. That's why I'll be watching closely and keeping track of how much Romney tries to stick to his playbook. Here is a list of catchphrases and buzzwords I'll be looking out for in Monday's debate. The more he uses these phrases, the less likely we'll hear concrete ideas. FULL POST


Filed under: 2012 Election • Analysis • Barack Obama • Romney
My debate checklist: AEI's Danielle Pletka
October 21st, 2012
05:50 PM ET

My debate checklist: AEI's Danielle Pletka

By Danielle Pletka, Special to CNN

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Danielle Pletka is Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are her own.

Fewer and fewer voters rate national security as their top priority in considering how to vote, which begs the question of who will be watching this last presidential debate, since the focus is foreign policy and national security.

Not to worry, the wonks will be out in force, and we'll be looking for a few key things from each candidate.

First, from Mitt Romney:

That vision thing: Romney needs to do more than simply be the un-Obama. We'll be looking for a positive vision that puts some meat on the bones of his call for a new era of American leadership and exceptionalism. Both are fine sentiments, but essentially meaningless without policy to go with them. And in straitened economic times, with a public weary of spending and war, he'll need to make clear that his priorities will keep America safe and strong without breaking the bank or putting more lives on the line. FULL POST


Filed under: 2012 Election • Afghanistan • Analysis • Barack Obama • China • Egypt • Iran • Libya • Middle East • Romney • Syria
Intelligence on Benghazi shifted after Obama administration described attack as 'spontaneous'
October 19th, 2012
07:33 PM ET

Intelligence on Benghazi shifted after Obama administration described attack as 'spontaneous'

An Obama administration official whose now controversial comment that the attack on the U.S. mission in Libya was "spontaneous" relied on talking points provided by the CIA based on its assessment that an intelligence official said on Friday was updated days later with new information.

The disclosure to CNN appears to offer some clarity around the Obama administration's early stage explanation of the September 11 attack by armed militants that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

But CNN National Security Contributor Fran Townsend injected a new element into the crucial time line on Friday night, reporting on Anderson Cooper 360 that senior intelligence officials had multiple conversations with senior White House officials in the first 24 hours after the attack.

Townsend, a former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to President George W. Bush, added that "we don't know" what was said.

"But I can tell you from having lived through these crises, you're getting a constant feed of what the intelligence community understands about what is currently going on and what has happened on the ground," Townsend said.

She added that "they will caveat the information" because in the first hours there "will be all sorts of information, some of it which will turn out not to have been true."

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Ansar al Shariah • Barack Obama • Congress • Libya • Libya • Rep. Mike Rogers • Romney • State Department • Susan Rice
Obama on Benghazi: We are going to fix it
October 18th, 2012
06:35 PM ET

Obama on Benghazi: We are going to fix it

By Ashley Killough

President Barack Obama on Thursday defended his administration's handling of the Libya consulate attack, telling Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" that he will ultimately fix any problems involving security for diplomatic posts.

"The government is a big operation and any given time, something screws up," he said in the interview to air Thursday night. "And you make sure that you find out what's broken and you fix it."

Also: McCain says Romney missed opportunity in Benghazi discussion

Stewart pressed the president on the aftermath of the terror attack that killed four Americans at a U.S. consulate in Benghazi last month. The administration has faced scrutiny over why the post was not more robustly staffed with security.

The comedian said the administration's response did not play out in an "optimal" way.

"I would say, even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page," Stewart said.

The president replied: "When four Americans get killed, it's not optimal. We're going to fix it. All of it."

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Libya • Romney
October 18th, 2012
12:33 PM ET

McCain: Romney missed opportunity in Benghazi discussion

By Ashley Kilough

Sen. John McCain on Wednesday said Mitt Romney missed an opportunity to go after the president over Libya in the second presidential debate.

Asked whether Romney failed to press President Barack Obama on the administration's handling of last month's consulate attack, the Arizona senator said "in a way, he did" on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."

During the debate, Obama said he referred to the Libya attack as an "act of terror" the day after the violence last month. Romney disputed the claim, sparking a fiery exchange over whether the president used the term.

President Obama on Benghazi: I am "always responsible" 

On Wednesday, some political observers noted Romney spent too much time over the semantics, rather than moving on and asking more questions about the security of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack on the U.S. facility on September 11, 2012.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Libya • Romney
Money talks– military cash goes to Obama
President Barack Obama greets troops at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas
October 17th, 2012
05:00 AM ET

Money talks– military cash goes to Obama

By Jennifer Rizzo

President Barack Obama's campaign has received almost double the amount of military donations that Mitt Romney's campaign has, according to data collected by a research group that tracks money and lobbying in U.S. politics.

It's a clue, perhaps, into who the military is rooting for in this presidential election. Obama has received more than $530,000 in campaign contributions from individual military donors, while Romney has taken in more than $280,000 in donations from individuals involved with the military.

Obama's lead in military donations comes despite hundreds of billions in cuts to the Defense Department and the Republican ticket blaming him for a potential half-trillion dollars more in cuts if Congress can't agree on a deficit deal.

The Center for Responsive Politics compiled the information using data reported to the Federal Election Commission and includes donations greater than $200 from both military and civilian employees of the nation's defense sector.

The group also looked at military donations given to former Republican candidate Ron Paul, who has advocated for a smaller military and bringing troops home from bases in countries like Germany and South Korea. Paul, too, received more military donations than Romney, totaling almost $400,000.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Military • Paul • Romney
October 17th, 2012
12:42 AM ET

President Obama on Benghazi: "I am always responsible"

By Jamie Crawford

President Barack Obama took ultimate responsibility on Tuesday for issues around last month's terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

"I am ultimately responsible for what's taking place there because these are my folks, and I'm the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home," Obama said during a debate with Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney in New York.

"These are just representatives of the United States, they are my representatives. I send them there, often times into harms way," Obama said.

Obama's remarks came a day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN's Elise Labott that she took responsibility for the security in Benghazi. That's where the U.S. mission was overrun on September 11, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

"Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job," Obama said in response to a follow-up question from CNN's Candy Crowley who served as the debate moderator. "But she works for me. I'm the president and I am always responsible."
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Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Libya • Middle East • Romney
Tough Talk on China
October 16th, 2012
07:58 PM ET

Tough Talk on China

By Charles Riley, reporting from Hong Kong

President Obama and Mitt Romney each used their second presidential debate to talk tough on China.

Romney pledged that he would label China as a currency manipulator on his first day in office - a promise he frequently works into his campaign speeches. And he accused China of "stealing" designs, patents and technology pioneered by U.S. companies.

"There's even an Apple store in China that's a counterfeit Apple store, selling counterfeit goods," Romney said. "They hack into our computers. We will have to have people play on a fair basis."

Obama was more circumspect in his use of language, but he touted the trade complaints his administration has filed against China over auto parts. Obama also recently blocked the sale of American wind farm companies to a Chinese firm.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • China • Obama • Romney
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