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Foreign policy fireworks: Face-off before election

October 23, 2012
Evan Bevins ( , The Marietta Times

Although at least part of President Barack Obama's and Republican challenger Mitt Romney's goal Monday was to draw the support of undecided voters, area residents who'd already made up their minds - and in some cases cast their ballots - also tuned in to the third and final presidential debate.

"I thought they both did a really good job. They both had compelling arguments," said Wesley Township resident Douglas Dotson, 57. "If I was undecided, I would even be more undecided."

But nothing Obama said Monday could overcome for Dotson some of the president's previous words.

Article Photos

AP Photo
President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, walk past each other on stage at the end of the last debate Monday at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

"I would base it on a comment President Obama made a while back that he would be a one-term president if he couldn't cure the problems ... and he hasn't," Dotson said.

Meanwhile, Newport resident Marion Bell Cody, 55, said she's already voted early for Obama.

One overriding reason was not foreign policy but tax policy. She's concerned Romney would eliminate tax breaks that union workers like her husband receive for traveling and staying out of town for work.

Fact Box

Early voting hours

8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, through Oct. 26.

8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Oct. 29 through Nov. 1.

8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2.

8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3.

1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4.

8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5.

Source: Washington County Board of Elections.

"His policies would ruin anybody who is in a union," she said.

Still, Cody said she wanted to watch Monday's debate to stay informed. And she was not impressed with what Romney had to say, pointing to his stated interest in ensuring that whoever takes control in Syria once President Bashir Assad is overthrown is friendly to the United States.

"He scares me. He really does. Because why would we try to go in and control other countries?" she said.

Both men spoke about their opposition to Assad and a desire to help the opposition organize, with Obama saying "we're particularly interested in making sure that we're mobilizing the moderate forces inside of Syria." Romney added that he favored arming the opposition as long as the weapons went to responsible parties that wouldn't later use them against U.S. interests.

Marietta resident Stan Lang, 60, said he knew before the debate he was voting for Romney but he wanted to watch so that, when speaking to undecided voters, he could talk about what each candidate said rather than how he personally felt.

Although as president, Obama has access to information about foreign policy his opponent doesn't, Lang said he felt Romney "came across as better informed." He cited Obama's claim about the strength of the nation's relationship with Israel.

"But yet you look at the way he (Obama) has responded to (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu, I mean, he's basically stabbed him in the back each time he's come over here," Lang said, offering Obama's not meeting with Netanyahu when the Israeli leader came to the United Nations earlier this year as one example.

But Williamstown resident Margaret Meeker, an Obama supporter, said the president has taken the right approach with Israel. She said she feels Netanyahu is pushing the U.S. to do more than it should.

"I think Obama is holding a line," she said. "War (with Iran) would be a mistake."

While some like Cody and Dotson watched the debate at home, several local Republicans and Democrats gathered for watch parties at the GOP headquarters in downtown Marietta and the Harmar Tavern, respectively. Both groups often applauded their chosen candidate and offered their own rebuttals to his opponent.

Romney's statement to Obama that he wouldn't tell Russian leader Vladimir Putin that "I'll give you more flexibility after the election" drew cheers from the Republicans. Later, the president's sarcastic retort to Romney's statement that the U.S. Navy has fewer ships today than in 1916 - "Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed" - elicited a raucous response from the Democrats.

"That really upset me because we don't need a lot of ships; we need efficient ones," Meeker said.

Prior to the debate's start, local Republicans said Romney would do well to repeatedly emphasize Libya, referring to the killing of American Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, and the administration's changing description of the situation. Libya was mentioned early in the debate but not as often as many expected.

"He didn't go to the who-did-what-when criticism of the administration that everybody expected him to do," said Marietta resident Tom Fenton, 70, who watched the debate at the GOP headquarters.

Fenton said he felt that was the right move, as he believes the media will continue covering that story without Romney hammering it in the debate.

Fenton said he hoped Romney would take advantage of the debate to sway more undecided voters, and he thought he did that by emphasizing the importance of America having a strong economy and taking a "big-picture" view of things.

"He seemed to be taking everything into account instead of burrowing into one little facet," Fenton said.

Washington County Democratic Party Chairwoman Molly Varner said she thought Romney did little to distinguish himself on foreign policy and actually "parroted" a lot of Obama's ideas.

"(Romney) seemed to abdicate his foreign policy positions from his entire campaign," she said.

Obama, meanwhile, "looked very presidential. He was measured and deliberate. He knew what he wanted to say, and he was very clear on the issues," Varner said.



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