Washington - Barack Obama pummelled Mitt Romney as "all over the map" on
foreign policy, dismissing his "wrong and reckless" leadership in a
heated final debate of a knife-edge White House race.
two weeks until polling day, Obama has unexpectedly found himself
running neck-and-neck with his once unfancied challenger, and Monday's
face-off on world affairs was perhaps a last chance to land a decisive
"I know you haven't been in a position to actually execute
foreign policy, but every time you've offered an opinion, you've been
wrong," President Obama told his foe, coming out swinging in the debate
in Boca Raton, Florida.
Played it safe
challenger Romney played it safe, avoiding any catastrophic error that
would have undermined his claims to be commander-in-chief, but was often
on the defensive, apart from when lambasting Obama over the struggling
"Attacking me is not an agenda," the former
Massachusetts governor told the president, and renewed charges that
Obama had mounted "apology tours" abroad, prompting the president to
accuse him of telling a "whopper".
Obama had the best lines of
the night and sharply cross-examined Romney on his approach to Syria,
Iran and trade rows with China, accusing him "airbrushing history" by
dumping earlier hawkish conservative positions.
who has spent months attempting to paint Obama as weak and as an
appeaser, actually backed much of the substance of the president's
global strategy, courting wavering voters ahead of the November 6
He endorsed Obama's decision to withdraw from
Afghanistan in 2014, supported the president's lethal drone war against
terror suspects and congratulated him for hunting down Osama bin Laden,
in clear bid to moderate his image.
vowed to press China harder on trade and currency issues but toned down
earlier rhetoric, following warnings his approach could spark a trade
"We can be a partner with China. We don't have to be an
adversary in any way, shape or form," he said, despite his vow to brand
Beijing a currency manipulator on day one of his presidency.
instant poll by CBS News found that Obama won the debate by 53% to 23%,
after a clash that appeared to polish his leadership credentials and saw
him showing the passion missing in his disastrous first debate.
CNN's poll found Obama beat Romney to 48% to 40%.
foreign policy is seen as unlikely to decide the election, with voters
pre-occupied by the sluggish economy, and it will take several days to
gauge whether the clash had any impact in the tied up polls.
Lynch, professor of Public Communication at American University said
that by agreeing with Obama on foreign policy - the incumbent's strong
suit - Romney had tried to manoeuvre the evening onto more favourable
"By agreeing on the big points of foreign policy, Romney
played it safe tonight, and tried to move the conversation to the
economy where he thinks he's stronger," she said.
bemused, puzzled and exasperated by Romney's tactics, staring intently
at him as he spoke, apparently trying to keep frustration in check, as
he nodded to debate moderator Bob Schieffer that he wanted a rebuttal.
a whole range of issues, whether it is in the Middle East, Afghanistan,
whether it is in Iraq, whether it is in Iran, you have been all over
the map," he told his challenger as they sat side-by-side on a
Horses and bayonets
Obama dismissed Romney's claims that that he had run down the armed forces to levels not seen since early in the 20th Century.
mentioned the navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we
did in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets
because the nature of our military's changed," he said, to laughter from
"We have these things called aircraft carriers
where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater,
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor,
warned Islamic extremism was rampant in post-Arab Spring societies and
blamed a lack of US leadership over the last four years, and cautioned
"we can't kill our way out of this mess".
Romney also called on
Obama to do more to end violence in Syria and demanded tightened
sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.
"I thought they saw weakness where they had been expected to find American strength," Romney said of leaders in Tehran.
The Republican also accused Obama of creating unhelpful tension between America and its ally Israel.
also launched a scathing attack on Romney's foreign tour as a candidate
earlier this year, saying when he had been running for the White House
he visited US troops and the went to Israel to reflect on the Holocaust.
didn't take donors," Obama charged, alluding to the fact that Romney
carried out a political fundraiser with wealthy Jewish supporters in
The president, who withdrew troops from Iraq, pointed to
Romney's past statements in support of maintaining an unpopular US
military presence in the country, invaded in 2003 under former
Republican president George W Bush.
And he mocked Romney's previous statement that Russia was America's top geopolitical foe.
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," Obama said.
rivals are effectively tied in national polls after Romney surged
following his first debate win in early October and started chipping
away at Obama's foundation in the swing states that will decide the