and wrapped up a series of defining debates on Monday night with a bristling exchange over America’s place in the world as each sought to portray the other as an unreliable commander in chief in a dangerous era.
Picking up where he left off in last week’s debate, Mr. Obama went on offense from the start, lacerating his challenger for articulating a set of “wrong and reckless” policies that he called incoherent. While less aggressive, Mr. Romney pressed back, accusing the president of failing to assert American interests and values in the world to deal with a “rising tide of chaos.”
“Governor, the problem is that on a whole range of issues, whether it’s the Middle East, whether it’s Afghanistan, whether it’s Iraq, whether it’s now Iran, you’ve been all over the map,” Mr. Obama charged.
“I don’t see our influence growing around the world,” Mr. Romney countered. “I see our influence receding, in part because of the failure of the president to deal with our economic challenges at home.”
The debate here at Lynn University, moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS News, was dedicated to foreign policy even though it veered occasionally into domestic issues, and it presented the last opportunity for the candidates to face each other before the Nov. 6 election. While international relations have often taken a back seat to the economy during the marathon campaign, whoever wins will inherit a world with increasingly complicated challenges, from the turmoil in the Middle East to a resurgent Russia to an emerging China, and Monday’s debate highlighted the vexing issues ahead.
For all its fireworks, the debate broke little new ground and underscored that the differences between the two men on foreign policy rest more on tone, style and their sense of leadership than on particular policies. Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney seemed to align on matters like withdrawal from Afghanistan, the perils of intervening in Syria and the use of drones to battle terrorists.
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