President Obama and Mitt Romney took the stage on a more level playing field at the second presidential debate Tuesday at 7 p.m. MST, with poll numbers more equally backing each of the candidates and the president’s enthusiasm this time matching his challenger’s.
The Nov. 6 election is just 19 days away and, with only one presidential debate left, the candidates’ positions on some of the hottest and most misunderstood topics were elaborated on Tuesday evening.
82 uncommitted voters from the New York area were given the chance to ask the candidates questions at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., which produced answers on the topics that were not furnished in the first debate: women-specific issues, the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya and tax deductions. Read on for the candidates’ quarreling responses to some of the biggest questions their campaigns face at this juncture in the election season.
Contraception and Abortion
Obama had the opportunity to end a discussion about women’s equal pay and opportunity (which both candidates support) on a note of health care, an unplanned but strategic move that disallowed his opponent to directly respond.
“In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured. Because this is not just a health issue, it’s an economic issue for women. It makes a difference,” Obama said.
“When Governor Romney says that we should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, there are millions of women all across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for not just contraceptive care, they rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings,” Obama said. “That’s a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country.”
As part of his extensive plan to cut government spending, Romney would indeed eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood and other Title X family planning programs.
“These are not just women’s issues,” Obama said. “These are family issues. These are economic issues.”
In a brief reply to Obama, Romney said at the beginning of his next response that the president misconstrued his stance.
“I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not,” Romney said. “And I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care of not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”
Romney has previously stated that he would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in America.
“He believes that the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade — a case of blatant judicial activism that took a decision that should be left to the people and placed it in the hands of unelected judges,” Romney’s website reads.
Since two of the U.S. Supreme Court’s nine justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, are predicted to retire in the near future, the upcoming presidential election could mean drastic changes to the nation’s highest court.
Currently, five, conservative-leaning justices and four liberal-leaning justices sit on the court. The replacement of Ginsburg and Breyer, members appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1994 respectively, could throw an overwhelming majority into the conservative field if replaced with right-wing justices. Romney would, therefore, have the ability to overturn Roe v. Wade by choosing justices that would align with his conservative values.
Gov. Romney explained the tax deductions and closed loopholes that he says will balance out the tax cuts he plans to give Americans if elected.
Since Romney would lower tax rates by as much as 20 percent for every income bracket, resulting in less money paid to the federal government, he would also limit the deductions that Americans receive back.
“In terms of bringing down deductions, one way of doing that would be, say, everybody gets — I’ll pick a number — $25,000 of deductions and credits, and you can decide which ones to use,” Romney said. “Your home mortgage interest deduction, charity, child tax credit, and so forth, you can use those as part of filling that bucket, if you will, of deductions.”
Popular deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations may be lost, depending on the individual’s “bucket.”
“But your rate comes down and the burden also comes down on you for one more reason, and that is every middle-income taxpayer no longer will pay any tax on interest, dividends or capital gains,” Romney said. “No tax on your savings. That makes life a lot easier.”
He said that a limit on deductions would be especially apparent to top income earners.
“I’m going to limit deductions and exemptions and credits particularly for people at the high end because I am not going to have people at the high end pay less than they’re paying now.
Obama responded by saying that the math does not work out to the economy’s advantage.
“You’re going to lose some deductions and you can’t buy the sales pitch,” he said to the audience. “Nobody who’s looked at it that’s serious, actually believes it adds up.”
Although a number of different studies do dispute the legitimacy of Romney’s tax plan, the idea an allowance to individuals for annual tax benefits is a step toward an understanding of how the candidate perceives his proposed system would actualize.
Kerry Ladka asked Obama to explain who within the State Department denied extra security for the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya prior to the Sept. 11 attack on the embassy that resulted in the deaths of the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three U.S. staffers.
The president of the United States has the power to appoint ambassadors under Article II, Section 2, paragraph 2 of the Constitution, a point that led Obama’s heartfelt response on his duty to protect those he appoints.
“I know these folks and I know their families, so nobody is more concerned about their safety and security than I am,” Obama said. “So as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team and I gave them three instructions.”
Those instructions were to bolster security at every U.S. embassy around the globe, investigate the incident, and bring the offenders to justice, he said.
On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered herself as a scapegoat for the outcomes in Libya.
“I take responsibility; I am the one in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts,” Clinton said to a CNN journalist in Lima, Peru on Monday at her first overseas trip since the attack.
“We weren’t told they wanted more security,” Vice President Joe Biden said of the consulate’s request before the attack at the vice presidential debate on Thursday, preceding the secretary of state’s message. But the executive has caught flack for not taking responsibility since the attack and Clinton’s statement, which he addressed at the debate Tuesday.
“I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there because these are my folks, and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home,” Obama said.
“Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I’m the president and I’m always responsible, and that’s why nobody’s more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.”
Gov. Romney agreed that Obama should take responsibility, like many outspoken Republicans in Congress have done both before and after Clinton’s remarks.
“I think the president just said correctly that the buck does stop at his desk and he takes responsibility for the failure in providing those security resources; and those terrible things may well happen from time to time.”
Romney claimed that the president disregarded the attack by continuing fundraising and campaign trips to Nevada and Colorado the next day.
Romney also, and more notably, said that Obama did not call the event an “act of terror” the day following the event, contrary to the moderator and the president’s claims.
“It took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror,” Romney said, to which the president retorted, “Get the transcript.”
Crawley backed up Obama.
“He did call it an act of terror,” she said of the president’s Sept. 12 statement. “It did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out, you are right about that.”
The president had indeed called the situation correctly the day after the event.
“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for,” Obama said at the Rose Garden in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sept. 12.
Despite the squabble, Obama offered truthful commentary on the recent proceedings of his administration, the record that his opponent continues to call him out on.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Alison Noon at Alison.firstname.lastname@example.org.