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NBC Claims Romney 'Taking Positions He Has Not Taken Before' on Foreign Policy

In a continued effort to tag Mitt Romney with a flip-flopper label, on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams proclaimed that Romney's performance in the final presidential debate "seemed to be a move to the center" on foreign policy issues and asserted that the Governor was "taking positions he has not taken before."

In the report that followed, correspondent Andrea Mitchell declared: "Mitt Romney's switch to a more moderate foreign policy last night was clearly aimed at independent women voters.... Clearly having decided that undecided voters, those swing voters, are more likely to choose a moderate Republican than a hawk."

Mitchell detailed the evidence of Romney's supposed policy shifts, but it largely amounted to the Republican nominee having a different tone more than different positions:

> In the past, Romney has taken a hard line on the possibility of military action against Iran to stop its nuclear program. Last night he emphasized diplomacy.

> On Syria, Romney used to talk about the U.S. arming the rebels. Then two weeks ago, he said the U.S. should help allied partners arm the rebels. Last night his emphasis was on avoiding a U.S. military role.

> Finally on Benghazi, after spending more than a month, including in last week's debate, relentlessly attacking the President for security and intelligence failures, last night Romney was brief and unexpectedly mild.

> On Iraq and also on the timetable for withdrawing from Afghanistan, Romney also noticeably softened his position.

On the issue of Syria, Romney did continue to advocate arming rebel forces against the Assad regime in the debate:

And so the right course for us, is working through our partners and with our own resources, to identify responsible parties within Syria, organize them, bring them together in a – in a form of –  if not government, a form of – of – of council that can take the lead in Syria. And then make sure they have the arms necessary to defend themselves.

Moments after the debate concluded Monday night, Williams wondered if Romney's remarks amounted to an "etch-a-sketch moment."

Here is a full transcript of Mitchell's October 23 report:

7:07AM ET

BRIAN WILLIAMS: And all the agreement we just chronicled seemed to be a move to the center, as we said, by Governor Romney, just two weeks before the election. Taking positions he has not taken before. We get a check of some of the facts tonight from our chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell. Andrea, good evening.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good evening, Brian. Mitt Romney's switch to a more moderate foreign policy last night was clearly aimed at independent women voters, the so-called "security moms." In the past, Romney has taken a hard line on the possibility of military action against Iran to stop its nuclear program. Last night he emphasized diplomacy.

MITT ROMNEY: And, of course, a military action is the last resort. It is something one would only, only consider if all of the other avenues had been – had been tried to their full extent.

MITCHELL: On Syria, Romney used to talk about the U.S. arming the rebels. Then two weeks ago, he said the U.S. should help allied partners arm the rebels. Last night his emphasis was on avoiding a U.S. military role.

ROMNEY: I don't want to have our military involved in Syria. I don't think there's a necessity to put our military in Syria at this stage.

MITCHELL: Finally on Benghazi, after spending more than a month, including in last week's debate, relentlessly attacking the President for security and intelligence failures, last night Romney was brief and unexpectedly mild.

ROMNEY: We see in Libya, an attack apparently by – well, I think we know now by terrorists of some kind – against our people there, four people dead. Our hearts and minds go to them.

MITCHELL: On Iraq and also on the timetable for withdrawing from Afghanistan, Romney also noticeably softened his position. Clearly having decided that undecided voters, those swing voters, are more likely to choose a moderate Republican than a hawk. Brian.

WILLIAMS: Andrea Mitchell part of our post-debate coverage tonight. Andrea, thanks.