NBC News | October 22, 2012
>> we are fortunate to have watching along with us as at least a one-night member of our team in boca raton , richard haass , the chairman of the council on foreign relations . richard, first of all, your complaint earlier tonight that these have become sallowed events, that these shouldn't be just foreign or domestic affairs. i was thinking of you during the debate toward the end, we talked about detroit and food stamps and a woman weeping in appleton, wisconsin. but in your area of expertise, when the conversation was concentrating on foreign affairs , in your view, where was the ball, advanced or reversed, by either man tonight?
>> well, the larger point, i think, is actually when they talked, in general, how much agreement there was. much less disagreement than you would have expected based upon the last six months. and when they talked about the middle east , what came through is whether it was syria or iran and so forth, that in many cases, our interests, if you will, is greater than our influence. and i think both of them, when they talked about egypt, pakistan, syria were really laying out the difficulties of american foreign policy . i was surprised a little bit, though, on afghanistan when governor romney was so explicit on saying that all u.s. forces would be out by the end of 2014 . the administration has kept out the possibility of a residual force there, and that was an odd counterpoint to the conversation about iraq, where it was almost confusing. governor romney was saying we should have kept some forces there, and the president was talking about how good it was we had gotten all of our forces out when, in fact, the united states did try to negotiate some sort of an arrangement with the iraqis where some forces could stay. so i found all of this somewhat odd. but again, to me the larger bottom line of the night was that on foreign policy issues. actually, there was much more agreement than disagreement.
>> richard, two points. number one, we'll fact check with andrea mitchell some of what you raised. number two, i noticed a columnist for "the new york times" tonight tweeted out that this was an etch-a-sketch moment for governor romney . it was obviously a knock of the campaign story that came up about changing policy moving toward the center with an ease of erasing an etch-a-sketch. did you see that kind of movement on his part?
>> again, i'm almost more comfortable, brian, leaving the politics to others, about what governor romney was trying to do tonight. but clearly, a big part of it, i think, was trying to communicate that he had the temperament to be a commander in chief. and the tone of the united states is -- i think he had a very strong line about no more iraqs or afghanistans. that i think he has understood that there is a kind of intervention fatigue. and the talk, for example, about iran was less about using military force than it was about tightening the sanctions. and again, you were kidding me about it before, but again, i found it striking how both gentlemen were talking so much about things domestic. here it was a foreign policy debate, and they both kept coming back to what were the real bases of american strength, enough nation building overseas, now nation building at home. that to me was a consistent theme, and i think they're both reflecting what they're hearing and seeing