Third presidential debate transcript: Obama and Romney’s exchange on Syria

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Excerpts from the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida on Oct. 22, 2012

Transcript of President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney’s discussion on Syria:

President Barack Obama: 

We are playing a leadership role. We organized the Friends of Syria. We are mobilizing humanitarian support and support for the opposition. And we are making sure that those we help are those who will be friends of ours in the long-term and friends of our allies in the region over the long-term.

But going back to Libya – because this is an example of how we make choices. Now, when we went into Libya and we were able to immediately stop the massacre there because of the unique circumstances and the coalition that we had helped to organize. We also had to make sure that Muammar Gaddafi didn’t stay there.

And to the governor’s credit, you supported us going to Libya and the coalition that we organized.

But when it came time to making sure that Gaddafi did not stay in power – that he was captured – governor your suggestion was that this was mission creep, that this was mission muddle. Imagine if we had pulled out at that point.

Now, Muammar Gaddafi had more American blood on his hands than any individual other than Osama bin Laden. And so we were going to make sure that we finish the job. That’s part of the reason why the Libyans stand with us. But we did so in a careful, thoughtful way, making certain that we knew who we were dealing with, that those forces of moderation on the ground are those we can work with.

And we have to take the same kind of steady, thoughtful leadership when it comes to Syria. That’s exactly what we’re doing.


Moderator Bob Schieffer: 

Governor, would you go beyond what the administration would do? Like for example, would you put in no-fly zones over Syria?


Gov. Mitt Romney: 

I don’t want our military involved in Syria. I don’t think there’s a necessity to put our military in Syria at this stage. I don’t anticipate that in the future.

As I indicated, our objectives are to replace Assad and to have in place a new government, which is friendly to us, a responsible government if possible, and I want to make sure that they get armed and they have the arms necessary to defend themselves but also to remove Assad.

But I do not want to see a military involvement on the part of our troops. And this isn’t going to be necessary.

We have, with our partners in the region, we have sufficient resources to support those groups.

But look, it’s been going on for a year. This should have been a time for American leadership. We should have taken a leading role – not militarily – but a leading role organizationally, governmentally to bring together the parties there, to find responsible parties.

As you hear from intelligence sources even today, the insurgents are highly disparate. They haven’t come together. They haven’t formed a unity group – a council of some kind. That needs to happen. America can help that happen.

And we need to make sure that they have the arms they need to carry out the very important role which is getting rid of Assad.


Moderator Bob Schieffer: 

Can we get a quick response?


President Barack Obama: 

What you just heard Gov. Romney say is – he doesn’t have different ideas and that’s because we’re doing exactly what we should be doing to try to promote a moderate Syrian leadership and an effective transition so that we get Assad out. That’s the kind of leadership that we’ve shown. That’s the kind of leadership we’ll continue to show.



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4 Comments on “Third presidential debate transcript: Obama and Romney’s exchange on Syria

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