Only one question on foreign policy at second presidential debate

Despite the fact that America is engaged in its longest war in Afghanistan, the Middle East is embroiled in revolutionary turmoil and Iran appears to be rapidly advancing toward nuclear weapons capability, only one question was asked at Tuesday night’s presidential debate that focused on foreign policy.

Unlike the first presidential debate, which was exclusively devoted to domestic policy, Tuesday’s town hall debate was supposed to feature a mix of “foreign and domestic issues.” Yet, of the nearly dozen questions asked, the only question that mostly pertained to foreign policy was a question towards the end on Libya.

“This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola yesterday,” the questioner stated. “We were sitting around talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?”

Two other questions contained an international policy element. One questioner asked Mitt Romney how he would differ from President Bush, both domestically and internationally. Another questioner fretted about American jobs being offshored and asked how the candidates would help bring those jobs back to the U.S.

Romney and Obama also inserted a few foreign policy comments into their answers to other questions. Responding to a questioner who wondered how the candidates would stop AK-47s from falling into the hands of criminals, Romney brought up Operation Fast and Furious, a program in which the Obama administration allowed American weapons to flow into the hands of drug cartels in Mexico. Romney also criticized the president for his handling of Syria, Iran and Israel during his answer to the Libya question.

Defending his record to a questioner in the debate, President Obama brought up his efforts to go after to al-Qaida, how he ordered the mission that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and how he ended the war in Iraq.

At various points, both candidates talked tough about cracking down on China economically.

But there were no questions specifically on the war in Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear threat, al-Qaida’s resurgence in the Middle East and North Africa, the so-called Arab Spring, America’s deteriorating relationship with Pakistan, the European economic crisis, the conflict in Syria or Russia’s increasing authoritarianism, among many other pressing foreign policy issues.

But those interested in seeing Obama and Romney engage in rhetorical fisticuffs over foreign policy will still get their chance. The final presidential debate in Boca Raton, Fla. on Oct. 22 is slated to focus exclusively on foreign policy topics.

Follow Jamie on Twitter