President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney faced each other on October 16 in the second of their three scheduled televised debates. The debate was highly anticipated, given the less than lustrous performance the president gave during the first debate with the Republican presidential contender. This time, Obama did not disappoint, giving the appearance of confidence and combativeness. Appearing energetic and aggressive, Obama gave as good as he got from the equally combative and acerbic Romney. With his poll numbers appearing to wane, Obama needed a win at this second debate.
The two candidates lapsed into heated argument during the October 16 debate, which was held at New York's Hofstra University. In a townhall style confrontation, the pair took questions from an audience of undecided voters.
While questions from the audience ranged from issues involving immigration, gun control, and energy, but focused mainly on America's economy. Romney emphasized his proposals to reduce taxation rates and spur job creation. Regarding Obama, Romney said "For me, when I look at the last four years, I say this has been a disappointment. We can do better than this."
On several occasions they began to argue, as in this exchange on energy policy.
Obama: “There were a whole bunch of oil companies...”
Romney: “No, I had a, I had a question, and the question was, how much did you cut them by?”
Obama: “You want me to answer the question? I am happy to answer the question.”
Romney: “All right. And it is?”
Obama: “Here is what happened....”
Responding to an audience question about the September 11 attack and murder of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Obama appeared to take ultimate responsibility for the notable security lapses in the face of a concerted attack by as yet unidentified armed forces. However, he took Romney to task for the latter's response to the still smoldering incident. Said Obama, “While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release, trying to make political points. And, that is not how a commander-in-chief operates. You do not turn national security into a political issue." Recalling that he had met the caskets of fallen Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at Andrews AFB, a visibly stern Obama said to Romney, "The suggestion that anybody on my team, whether the Secretary of State, our UN ambassador, anybody on my team, would play politics or mislead, when we lost four of our own, is offensive."
Quick on his feet, former Massachusetts Governor Romney claimed that Obama's lapses in Libya were symbolic of allegedly failed policies towards the Mideast. In addition, Romney said it was Obama who acted in a partisan fashion in the aftermath of the attack. “The president, the day after that happened, flies to Las Vegas for a political fundraiser, and the next day to Colorado for another political event. I think these actions taken by a president and leader have symbolic significance," he said.
Obama proclaimed his record on the economy and promised to continue working on an economic recovery. “We have created five million jobs, gone from 800,000 jobs a month being lost, and we are making progress. We saved an auto industry that was on the brink of collapse," he said.
Governor Romney said Obama's economic record will not improve in a second term. “I think you know better. I think you know that these last four years have not been so good, as the president just described, and that you do not feel like you are confident that the next four years are going to be much better either. I can tell you that if you elect President Obama, you know what you are going to get. You are going to get a repeat of the last four years," he said.
Romney said the president was not doing enough to confront China on allegations of cheating on trade issues. Romney vowed that on his first day in office he would label China a currency manipulator. Obama defended his record on China, saying he has won numerous cases against Beijing at the World Trade Organization.
A majority of Americans believed Romney won the first debate on October 3, while he has been gaining in public opinion polls since then. Most recent polls show the two candidates almost even. Some polls show that some Americans may concede that Obama may have won this second debate. Both candidates will campaign in swing states on October 17. Romney goes to Virginia and the president will visit Iowa and Ohio. GOP vice-presidential candidate, Congressman Paul Ryan is already in Ohio campaigning. Obama and Romney will meet in one final debate, on foreign policy issues, on October 23 in Florida.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.