U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) attend their third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on Oct. 22, 2012. (Xinhua/Pool/Win McNamee)
BOCA RATON, the United States, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- With their fate hung in the air in a dead heat campaign, U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican foe Mitt Romney Monday night spared no effort to flail one another on foreign policy issues in their last and final debate before going over voters' scrutiny on Nov. 6.
Neither could afford to fare poorly in their showdown in Lynn University in Boca Raton of Florida, as latest polls showed the duo neck-and-neck among likely voters.
And Obama pummeled his challenger relentlessly over his inconsistencies on foreign policy, focus of the debate.
ON ROMNEY'S INCONSISTENCIES
In his face-to-face encounter with Romney, Obama focused his efforts on shedding light on his rival's inconsistencies on foreign policy issues.
Counterattacking Romney over his assault on his Middle East policies, which the former governor of Massachusetts said have resulted in terrorism and a rising tide of tumult and confusion, the president brought to the fore his adversary's confusing viewpoint on a number of foreign policy issues.
"Governor Romney, I'm glad that you recognize that al-Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not al-Qaida; you said Russia, in the 1980s, they're now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years," Obama told his foe.
The GOP nominee insisted that while describing Russia as a No. 1 geopolitical foe, he also called Iran "the greatest national security threat we face."
"Russia does continue to battle us in the UN time and time again. I have clear eyes on this," he said, referring to the country's multiple vetoes of draft resolutions on Syria at the world body.
"I'm not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia, or Mr. Putin," he added. "And I'm certainly not going to say to him, I'll give you more flexibility after the election. After the election, he'll get more backbone."
Obama, unaware that the mic in between was open, told then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March in Seoul that he had little flexibility in addressing Russia's objections to the NATO missile defense system before his November re-election bid.
"This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility," the American president said, pledging to send the information to Vladimir Putin, then Russian Prime Minister who returned to the presidency in May.
Obama also attacked Romney on his evolving positions on Iraq and Afghanistan.
"You say that you're not interested in duplicating what happened in Iraq. But just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now," the president said.
In the debate, he repeated his withdrawal of American troops from Iraq as a foreign policy accomplishment, along with the gradual drawdown of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan and the killing of Osama bin Laden and other top leaders of al-Qaida.
"You said that, first, we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan. Then you said we should. Now you say maybe or it depends, which means not only were you wrong, but you were also confusing in sending mixed messages both to our troops and our allies," Obama told Romney.
In a nutshell, Obama asserted that Romney is pursuing a "wrong and reckless leadership that is all over the map" that "is not a recipe for American strength, or keeping America safe over the long haul."
REVERTING TO ECONOMY
Moderator Bob Schieffer from CBS News selected five topics for the 90-minute final encounter, namely America's role in the world, the war in Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear issue, the changing Middle East and the new face of terrorism, and the rise of China.
In an election dominated by economic growth and job creation, where Romney has a wide margin of lead now over his foe, the two nominees managed to revert to the top concerns of voters in their jousting.
Asserting that America's influence is waning under Obama's stewardship in the past four years, Romney, former CEO of a private equity investment firm, called for a strong America to promote the principles of peace.
"And that begins with a strong economy here at home. Unfortunately, the economy is not stronger," he said. "When the president of Iraq -- excuse me, of Iran, Ahmadinejad, says that our debt makes us not a great country, that's a frightening thing."
"You can't have an economy that over the last three years keeps slowing down its growth rate. You can't have kids coming out of college, half of them can't find a job today, or a job that's commensurate with their college degree. We have to get our economy going," Romney remarked.
For his part, Obama claimed that the end of the Iraqi war enabled his administration to begin the drawdown in Afghanistan, refocus on neglected alliances, and start rebuilding America.
"Making sure that we're bringing manufacturing back to our shores so that we're creating jobs here, as we've done with the auto industry, not rewarding companies that are shipping jobs overseas," he said.
The president also dwelled on education and energy, issues among top concerns of the American voters.
"Making sure that we've got the best education system in the world, including retraining our workers for the jobs of tomorrow," he said.
"Doing everything we can to control our own energy," Obama remarked. "We've cut our oil imports to the lowest level in two decades because we've developed oil and natural gas. But we also have to develop clean energy technologies that will allow us to cut our exports in half by 2020. That's the kind of leadership that we need to show."
On the budget deficit, which has hit 1 trillion dollars for four years in a row, Obama said, "We've got to do it in a responsible way by cutting out spending we don't need, but also asking the wealthiest to pay a little bit more. That way we can invest in the research and technology that's always kept us at the cutting edge."
"Unfortunately, Governor Romney's plan doesn't do it," he added. "Both at home and abroad, he has proposed wrong and reckless policies."
The duo rattled on, prompting the moderator to remind them of the debate focus.
Obama's lackluster performance in the first presidential debate on Oct. 3 resulted in his quick loss of a widening lead, which contracted to a tied 47 percent among likely voters just one day before the showdown.
The president rebounded following the second duel.
A CBS News snap poll found that 53 percent of the uncommitted voters saw Obama as the clear winner, while 23 percent favored Romney, and 24 percent called it a draw.
A CNN poll also put the Democratic incumbent 8 percentage points ahead of Romney.
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