The Cable

Obama contradicts Clinton, calls China an ‘adversary’

President Barack Obama called China an "adversary" of the United States for the first time during tonight's debate, changing his own administration's messaging on the U.S.-China relationship and contradicting his own secretary of state.

"China is both an adversary, but also a potential partner," Obama said during the debate.

"China is doesn't have to be an adversary," Romney responded.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to agree with Romney, not her boss. She's said on several occasions that China is not an adversary and doesn't have to become one.

"Now, some believe that China on the rise is, by definition, an adversary. To the contrary, we believe that the United States and China can benefit from and contribute to each other's successes," Clinton said in one her first speeches in office in 2009.

Apparently one of those "some" people is President Obama.

Still, as the Obama administration has became more wary of China's actions and intentions, Clinton has avoided calling China an "adversary." Asked last year if China were a "friend, foe, or adversary," she declined to say whether it were any one of the three.

"Well, my hope is that we have a normal relationship, a very positive, cooperative, comprehensive relationship, where in some areas we are going to compete - there's no doubt about that - but in many areas we're going to cooperate. And we've seen that pattern in the last two years and it's a pattern that I think reflects the reality and the complexity of our relationship," she said.

The Cable

Romney, like Obama, supports troops in Afghanistan past 2014

Note to Joe Biden: Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama support leaving troops in Afghanistan after the full handover of security responsibility at the end of 2014, the Romney campaign confirmed during tonight's debate.

Romney promised during the debate that if he were elected president, U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan according to the timeline set by the Obama administration in conjunction with the government of Hamid Karzai. Romney didn't repeat his previous qualifications that the decision would be made in consultation with the generals on the ground or based on the conditions at the time.

But neither Romney nor Obama talked about the fact that the Obama administration is entering into negotiations with the Karzai government to leave a follow-on force in Afghanistan well past 2014 that would be responsible for counterterrorism missions, training Afghan security forces, and protecting and supplying the State Department's missions in Afghanistan.

Asked by The Cable tonight, Romney campaign Press Secretary Andrea Saul confirmed that Romney does support a "small footprint" of American troops in Afghanistan past the 2014 transition deadline. Romney said so in a November primary debate.

"The commander in chief, perhaps looking at the calendar of the election, decided to bring them home in September instead in the middle of the fighting season. Our commanders said that puts our troops at risk, at danger. ... I think that was a mistake. Our surge troops should have been withdrawn by December of next year, not by September," Romney said. "And the timetable by the end of 2014 is the right timetable for us to be completely withdrawn from Afghanistan, other than a small footprint of support forces."