October 22nd, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Letters to the President #1372: 'Foreign affairs: The final debate'

Reporter's Note: Both the candidates are making final preparations for tonight’s big debate.

Dear Mr. President,

So the last big debate is looming and the topic of the day is foreign affairs, eh? I would not profess to be an expert in such matters, so I can’t offer much advive. When it comes to foreign affairs, the only think I know with certainty is that that is the title of one of my favorite Tom Waits albums of all time, and if you’ve never heard it, you should nab it on iTunes pronto. The title track in particular is full of wonderful images and ideas that would get you into a tres mellow groove for tonight’s discussion.

That is assuming you want to be mellow. Who knows? Maybe you are once again going to strike a more aggressive stance. It’s your choice of course. I’m just saying if you want to be cooled out, listening to Foreign Affairs is a great way to get there. If not, I guess you could go with something punchier, like Rage Against the Machine.

I suppose what you really have to aim for is something in the middle. You have to bring enough energy and passion to seem like you’re engaged, and yet not so much as to make it look like you are desperate. Maybe you should channel a little Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Ha!

I’ve always thought that debates about foreign policy are decidedly one-sided when a sitting President is involved because, after all, almost no opponent can know as much about the topic as the current keeper of the White House. You’ve been engaging all these issues, getting daily briefings, and burying yourself in the details of all these entanglements overseas for four years now. Mitt Romney? Not so much.

Still, I’m sure you know better than to take it for granted that you’ll have an upper hand. Debates, like foreign affairs, can be full of surprises. Neither foes nor friends will necessarily behave the way you expect them to, so flexibility is the key.

Good luck with it. I’ll be watching. Call if you get a moment.


October 22nd, 2012
04:36 PM ET

5 things to watch in tonight's debate

Editor's note: Watch Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer and Fareed Zakaria's special coverage of the presidential debate at 7 p.m. ET on CNN.

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney meet Monday night in the last of their three debates, this one focused on foreign policy.

Unlike last week's contentious town hall-style debate in which the candidates ambled around the stage and parried with each other, Obama and Romney will be seated at a table with moderator Bob Schieffer, who told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram what he hopes comes out of the debate:

"People are watching to judge character. I don't think it matters what the questions are about - what matters is how candidates answer. Do they seem in control? ... I'm just there to help the viewers get a better understanding of who these people are."

Here are five things to watch tonight:

1. How much does Romney know about Libya?

Romney will undoubtedly raise a lot questions about Obama's handling of the terror attack in Libya, but there's a good chance he already has some answers.

Don't forget: Romney has been receiving briefings from the U.S. intelligence community since September 17, as is customary for a presidential challenger in the final stages of a campaign.

His first briefing came a week after the breach of the Benghazi mission left four Americans dead. His second briefing took place at the CIA, on September 27.


October 22nd, 2012
11:00 AM ET

CNN Heroes Top 10: Malya Villard-Appolon

Although a massive earthquake destroyed her home and her office in January 2010, Malya Villard-Appolon has been relentless in her efforts to support rape victims in Haiti.

Villard-Appolon is a rape survivor herself. In 2004, she established KOFAVIV, an organization that helps other survivors find safety, medical care and legal aid.

Since the earthquake, she and her group have helped more than 1,400 women.

CNN asked Villard-Appolon for her thoughts on being chosen as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012.

CNN: What do you hope this recognition will mean for KOFAVIV?

Villard-Appolon: It's an opportunity for people to know the situation in Haiti - for women, especially.

We feel that (this) will allow KOFAVIV to reach out to more women and provide more support. Haiti is a country where many of the women are victims.

For me, this is a huge thing. I was raped in 1992 and in 2003; I survived an attempted rape in 2010. My daughter was raped. And yet in the face of the problems in our country, I gave my entire life for this project. This will enable me to continue to fight, and I hope it brings about a change for my country.


Filed under: CNN Heroes