President Barack Obama scored a hit on Mitt Romney when the challenger stumbled over the attack in Benghazi, Libya in the second presidential debate, while the GOP candidate tried to use the topic to raise the issue of relations with Israel.
Responding to Obama’s pledge to investigate the circumstances of an attack that killed four U.S. diplomats in Libya last month, Romney assailed Obama’s overall foreign policy record, and pivoted to the president’s at-times strained relationship with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“This calls into question the president’s whole policy in the Middle East. Look what’s happening in Syria, in Egypt, now in Libya,” Romney said at the Hofstra University debate in Long Island, N.Y., on Tuesday night. “Consider the distance between ourselves and – and Israel, the president said that – that he was going to put daylight between us and Israel.”
Obama, in a meeting in July 2009 with Jewish leadership was asked whether he would preserve the policies of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations of “no daylight,” or keeping disputes with Israel private.
At that meeting, Obama replied that the practice of not making public disputes with Israel did not advance the peace process.
During the debate, Obama did not engage on the Israel question, instead pushing back against Romney’s claims that he was not fully engaged in the wake of the Libya attack.
Other than that segment, much of the debate focused on domestic issues like education, jobs creation, tax policy and immigration.
On energy policy, each leader outlined different paths to energy independence, with Obama focusing on alternatives to fossil fuels and Romney embracing these as well, but urging greater exploitation of oil, coal and gas.
Asked to distinguish his policies from those of President George W. Bush, Romney said: “We can now, by virtue of new technology actually get all the energy we need in North America without having to go to the – the Arabs or the Venezuelans or anyone else. That wasn’t true in his time, that’s why my policy starts with a very robust policy to get all that energy in North America – become energy secure.”