Third Presidential Debate: Full Transcript

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ROMNEY: ...that's a -- I indicated...

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: ...major speech.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: ...I indicated that you failed to put in place a status...

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Governor?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: ...of forces agreement at the end of the conflict that existed.

OBAMA: Governor -- here -- here's -- here's one thing...

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: ...here's one thing I've learned as commander in chief.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIEFFER: Let him answer...

OBAMA: You've got to be clear, both to our allies and our enemies, about where you stand and what you mean. You just gave a speech a few weeks ago in which you said we should still have troops in Iraq. That is not a recipe for making sure that we are taking advantage of the opportunities and meeting the challenges of the Middle East.

Now, it is absolutely true that we cannot just meet these challenges militarily. And so what I've done throughout my presidency and will continue to do is, number one, make sure that these countries are supporting our counterterrorism efforts.

Number two, make sure that they are standing by our interests in Israel's security, because it is a true friend and our greatest ally in the region.

Number three, we do have to make sure that we're protecting religious minorities and women because these countries can't develop unless all the population, not just half of it, is developing.

Number four, we do have to develop their economic -- their economic capabilities.

But number five, the other thing that we have to do is recognize that we can't continue to do nation building in these regions. Part of American leadership is making sure that we're doing nation building here at home. That will help us maintain the kind of American leadership that we need.

SCHIEFFER: Let me interject the second topic question in this segment about the Middle East and so on, and that is, you both mentioned -- alluded to this, and that is Syria.

The war in Syria has now spilled over into Lebanon. We have, what, more than 100 people that were killed there in a bomb. There were demonstrations there, eight people dead.

Mr. President, it's been more than a year since you saw -- you told Assad he had to go. Since then, 30,000 Syrians have died. We've had 300,000 refugees.

The war goes on. He's still there. Should we reassess our policy and see if we can find a better way to influence events there? Or is that even possible?

And you go first, sir.

OBAMA: What we've done is organize the international community, saying Assad has to go. We've mobilized sanctions against that government. We have made sure that they are isolated. We have provided humanitarian assistance and we are helping the opposition organize, and we're particularly interested in making sure that we're mobilizing the moderate forces inside of Syria.

But ultimately, Syrians are going to have to determine their own future. And so everything we're doing, we're doing in consultation with our partners in the region, including Israel which obviously has a huge interest in seeing what happens in Syria; coordinating with Turkey and other countries in the region that have a great interest in this.

This -- what we're seeing taking place in Syria is heartbreaking, and that's why we are going to do everything we can to make sure that we are helping the opposition. But we also have to recognize that, you know, for us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step, and we have to do so making absolutely certain that we know who we are helping; that we're not putting arms in the hands of folks who eventually could turn them against us or allies in the region.

And I am confident that Assad's days are numbered. But what we can't do is to simply suggest that, as Governor Romney at times has suggested, that giving heavy weapons, for example, to the Syrian opposition is a simple proposition that would lead us to be safer over the long term. SCHIEFFER: Governor?

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