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For two men who have been mud-slinging for months, foreign policy appears to provide a rare but common ground.
in the years to come we see Syria as a — as a friend and Syria as a responsible party in the Middle East. This — this is a critical opportunity for America.
On Egypt and Hosni Mubarak:
SCHIEFFER: During the Egyptian turmoil, there came a point when you said it was time for President Mubarak to go .... Some in your administration thought perhaps we should have waited a while on that. Do you have any regrets about that?
OBAMA: No, I don’t because I think that America has to stand with democracy. The notion that we would have tanks run over those young people who were in Tahrir Square, that is not the kind of American leadership that John F. Kennedy talked about 50 years ago.
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 ... the transition towards a more representative form of government ... didn’t explode in the way it did. But once it exploded, I felt the same as the president did, which is these — these freedom voices in the — the streets of Egypt where the people who were speaking of our principles and the — 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.
SCHIEFFER: The United States is scheduled to turn over responsibility for security in Afghanistan to the Afghans .... What do you do if the deadline arrives and it is obvious the Afghans are unable to handle their security? Do we still leave?
ROMNEY: Well, we’re going to be finished by 2014. And when I’m president, we’ll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014. The commanders and the generals there are on track to do so. We’ve seen progress over the past several years. The surge has been successful, and the training program is proceeding at pace. There are now a large number of Afghan security forces, 350,000, that are — are ready to step in to provide security. And — and we’re going to be able to make that transition by the end of — of 2014. So our troops’ll come home at that point.
OBAMA: We are now in a position where we have met many of the objectives that got us there in the first place .... We went because there were people who were responsible for 3,000 American deaths. And so we decimated Al Qaeda’s core leadership in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We then started to build up Afghan forces. And we’re now in a position where we can transition out, because there’s no reason why Americans should die when Afghans are perfectly capable of defending their own country. Now, that transition — has to take place in a responsible fashion. We’ve been there a long time, and we’ve got to make sure that we and our coalition partners are pulling out responsibly and giving Afghans the capabilities that they need. But what I think the American people recognize is after a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation-building here at home.
SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you, Governor, because we know President Obama’s position on this, what is — what is your position on the use of drones?
ROMNEY: Well, I believe that we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it’s widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it to continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.
More from GlobalPost: Series: Binders full of foreign policy
And last, but certainly not least:
OBAMA: You know, under my leadership, what we’ve done is reformed education .... We’ve seen progress and gains in schools that were having a terrible time, and they’re starting to finally make progress. And what I now want to do is to hire more teachers, especially in math and science, because we know that we’ve fallen behind when it comes to math and science. And those teachers can make a difference.
ROMNEY: It’s so critical that we make America once again the most attractive place in the world to start businesses, to build jobs, to grow the economy. And that’s not going to happen by — by just hiring teachers. Look, I — I love to — I love teachers, and I’m happy to have states and communities that want to hire teachers, do that. I — by the way, I don’t like to have the federal government start pushing its way deeper and deeper into — into our schools. Let the states and localities do that. I was a governor. The federal government didn’t hire our teachers .... But I love teachers ... I want to get our private sector growing, and I know how to do it.
SCHIEFFER: I think we all love teachers. Gentlemen, thank you so much for a very vigorous debate. We have come to the end.