Third Presidential Debate: Full Transcript

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ROMNEY: No. I believe, as the president indicated, and said at the time that I supported his -- his action there. I felt that -- I wish we'd have had a better vision of the future.

I wish that, looking back at the beginning of the president's term and even further back than that, that we'd have recognized that there was a growing energy and passion for freedom in that part of the world, and that we would have worked more aggressively with our friend and with other friends in the region to have them make the transition towards a more representative form of government, such that it didn't explode in the way that it did.

But once it exploded, I felt the same as the president did, which is these freedom voices and the streets of Egypt, where the people who were speaking of our principles and the President Mubarak had done things which were unimaginable and the idea of him crushing his people was not something that we could possibly support.

Let me step back and talk about what I think our mission has to be in the Middle East and even more broadly, because our purpose is to make sure the world is more -- is peaceful. We want a peaceful planet. We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they're going to have a bright and prosperous future, not be at war. That's our purpose.

And the mantle of leadership for the -- promoting the principles of peace has fallen to America. We didn't ask for it. But it's an honor that we have it.

But for us to be able to promote those principles of peace requires us to be strong. And that begins with a strong economy here at home. Unfortunately, the economy is not stronger. When the -- 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.

Former chief of the -- Joint Chiefs of Staff said that -- Admiral Mullen said that our debt is the biggest national security threat we face. This -- we have weakened our economy. We need a strong economy.

We need to have as well a strong military. Our military is second to none in the world. We're blessed with terrific soldiers, and extraordinary technology and intelligence. But the idea of a trillion dollar in cuts through sequestration and budget cuts to the military would change that. We need to have strong allies. Our association and connection with our allies is essential to America's strength. We're the great nation that has allies, 42 allies and friends around the world.

ROMNEY: And, finally, we have to stand by our principles. And if we're strong in each of those things, American influence will grow. But unfortunately, in nowhere in the world is America's influence will grow. But unfortunately, in -- nowhere in the world is America's influence greater today than it was four years ago.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

ROMNEY: And that's because we've become weaker in each of those four...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIEFFER: ...you're going to get a chance to respond to that, because that's a perfect segue into our next segment, and that is, what is America's role in the world? And that is the question. What do each of you see as our role in the world, and I believe, Governor Romney, it's your chance to go first.

ROMNEY: Well I -- I absolutely believe that America has a -- a responsibility, and the privilege of helping defend freedom and promote the principles that -- that make the world more peaceful. And those principles include human rights, human dignity, free enterprise, freedom of expression, elections. Because when there are elections, people tend to vote for peace. They don't vote for war. So we want to promote those principles around the world. We recognize that there are places of conflict in the world.

We want to end those conflicts to the extent humanly possible. But in order to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong. America must lead. And for that to happen, we have to strengthen our economy here at home. You can't have 23 million people struggling to get a job. 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.

And our military, we've got to strengthen our military long-term. We don't know what the world is going to throw at us down the road. We -- we make decisions today in the military that -- that will confront challenges we can't imagine. In the 2000 debates, there was no mention of terrorism, for instance. And a year later, 9/11 happened. So, we have to make decisions based upon uncertainty, and that means a strong military. I will not cut our military budget. We have to also stand by our allies. I -- I think the tension that existed between Israel and the United States was very unfortunate.

I think also that pulling our missile defense program out of Poland in the way we did was also unfortunate in terms of, if you will, disrupting the relationship in some ways that existed between us.

And then, of course, with regards to standing for our principles, when -- when the students took to the streets in Tehran and the people there protested, the Green Revolution occurred, for the president to be silent I thought was an enormous mistake. We have to stand for our principles, stand for our allies, stand for a strong military and stand for a stronger economy.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. President?

OBAMA: America remains the one indispensable nation. And the world needs a strong America, and it is stronger now than when I came into office.

Because we ended the war in Iraq, we were able to refocus our attention on not only the terrorist threat, but also beginning a transition process in Afghanistan.

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