Third debate transcript: Obama & Romney’s exchange on Iran, Israel & American leadership in the Middle East

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 exchange on Iran, Israel, and American leadership in the Middle East:

President Barack Obama: Nothing Governor Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign. And every fact checker and every reporter who’s looked at it, Governor, has said this is not true.

And when it comes to tightening sanctions, look, as I said before, we’ve put in the toughest, most crippling sanctions ever. And the fact is, while we were coordinating an international coalition to make sure these sanctions were effective, you were still invested in a Chinese state oil company that was doing business with the Iranian oil sector.

So I’ll let the American people decide, judge, who’s going to be more effective and more credible when it comes to imposing crippling sanctions.

And with respect to our attitude about the Iranian revolution, I was very clear about the murderous activities that had taken place and that was contrary to international law and everything that civilized people stand for.

And — and so the strength that we have shown in Iran is shown by the fact that we’ve been able to mobilize the world.

When I came into office, the world was divided. Iran was resurgent. Iran is at its weakest point, economically, strategically, militarily, then since — then in many years. And we are going to continue to keep the pressure on to make sure that they do not get a nuclear weapon. That’s in America’s national interest and that will be the case so long as I’m president.

Gov. Mitt Romney: We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran. We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran. And — and — we should not have wasted these four years to the extent they — they continue to be able to spin these centrifuges and get that much closer. That’s number one.

Number two, Mr. President, the reason I call it an apology tour is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And by the way, you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region, but you went to the other nations.

And by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then in those nations, and on Arabic TV, you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations.

Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.

President Barack Obama: Bob, let me — let me respond.

If we’re going to talk about trips that we’ve taken — when I was a candidate for office, first trip I took was to visit our troops. And when I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn’t take donors. I didn’t attend fundraisers. I went to Yad Beshef (ph), the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable.

And then I went down to the border towns of Storok (ph), which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. And I saw families there who showed me there where missiles had come down near their children’s bedrooms. And I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids. Which is why as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles.

So that’s how I’ve used my travels, when I travel to Israel and when I travel to the region. And the — the central question at this point is going to be: Who is going to be credible to all parties involved? And they can look at my track record, whether it’s Iran sanctions, whether it’s dealing with counterterrorism, whether it’s supporting democracy, whether it’s supporting women’s rights, whether it’s supporting religious minorities.

And they can say that the President of the United States and the United States of America has stood on the right side of history. And that kind of credibility is precisely why we’ve been able to show leadership on a wide range of issues facing the world right now.

Gov. Mitt Romney: Let’s come back to what the president was speaking about, which is what’s happening in the world and the president’s statement that things are going so well.

Look, I look at what’s happening around the world, and i see Iran four years closer to a bomb. I see the Middle East with a rising tide of violence, chaos, tumult. I see jihadists continuing to spread, whether they’re rising or just about the same level, hard to precisely measure, but it’s clear they’re there. They’re very strong.

I see Syria with 30,000 civilians dead, Assad still in power. I see our trade deficit with China, larger than it’s — growing larger every year, as a matter of fact.

I look around the world and I don’t feel that you see North Korea, continuing to export their nuclear technology, Russia said they’re not going to follow Nunn-Lugar any more. They’re back away from a nuclear proliferation treaty that we had with them.

I look around the world, I don’t see our influence growing around the world. I see our influence receding, in part because of the failure of the president to deal with our economic challenges at home; in part because of our withdrawal from our commitment to our military in the way I think it ought to be; in part because of the — the — the turmoil with Israel.

I mean, the president received a letter from 38 Democrat senators saying the tensions with Israel were a real problem. They asked him, please repair the tension — Democrat senators — please repair the tension…

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3 Comments on “Third debate transcript: Obama & Romney’s exchange on Iran, Israel & American leadership in the Middle East

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