*In his welcome and introduction to the third presidential debate, moderator Bob Schieffer laid out the rules, and asked the audience to make a vow of silence throughout the segments.
That vow was broken during the segment when the candidates – President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney − were discussing budget cuts in military spending. Following are excerpts from the ABC News transcript that prompted the audience to lose restraint.
The exchange began when Schieffer asked Romney “Governor, you say you want a bigger military. You want a bigger Navy. You don’t want to cut defense spending. What I want to ask you — we were talking about financial problems in this country. Where are you going to get the money?”
Romney replied in part: “Our Navy is old…our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now at under 285. We’re headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That’s unacceptable to me. I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy. Our Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since it was founded in 1947.”
SCHIEFFER: “Let me get — I want to try to shift it, because we have heard some of this in the other debates.”
ROMNEY: “Well, let’s come back and talk about the military, but all the way — all the way through. First of all, I’m going through from the very beginning — we’re going to cut about 5 percent of the discretionary budget, excluding military. That’s number one. The good news is (inaudible). I’d be happy to have you take a look. Come on our website. You look at how we get to a balanced budget within eight to 10 years. We do it by getting — by reducing spending in a whole series of programs. By the way, number one I get rid of is Obamacare.”
Democrats, analysts and the American people have heard Romney mention his economic plan, but he never gives details. When asked he refers people to his website.
Obama responded in part, “Look, Governor Romney’s called for $5 trillion of tax cuts that he says he’s going to pay for by closing deductions. Now, the math doesn’t work, but he continues to claim that he’s going to do it. He then wants to spend another $2 trillion on military spending that our military is not asking for… but I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship…it’s what are our capabilities. And so when I sit down with the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home… And, you know, we visited the website quite a bit and it still doesn’t work.”
To that remark the audience could be heard laughing.