By Andrea Purse, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Andrea Purse is the Vice President for Communications at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The views expressed are her own.
On a Saturday morning in August, a hopeful conservative media reported gleefully about their apparent good fortune: a bright eyed, P90X –addicted, “ideas guy” would be the Republican vice presidential pick. Finally, they thought, this campaign had a visionary who would offer a bold alternative to what they saw as a failed Obama administration.
Mitt Romney had spent much of the primary campaign disconnecting himself from past policy positions and severing ties with his own personal experience. He ran away from his former positions on everything from health care to abortion to marriage equality. Governor Romney’s listless primary campaign never caught the imagination of conservative voters who considered choosing far right candidates – first Michele Bachmann, then Herman Cain, then Rick Santorum – in an effort to avoid picking Romney as their nominee. Ultimately, Romney captured the nomination by claiming the last seat at the end of a long and at times painful game of musical chairs – not because he had articulated a policy vision for the future of the country.
By Shen Dingli, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Shen Dingli is director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, Shanghai. This is the last in our series of articles looking at how the world views the presidential election. The views expressed are his own.
As Americans head to the polls to elect their president, many in China – which itself is seeing a leadership transition – are watching closely.
Being the incumbent, President Barack Obama has the resources and visibility that come with his office at his disposal, and incumbents in recent years have generally fared well in U.S. elections. And Obama’s health care reforms – which he has argued will benefit tens of millions of Americans – would likely be enough to sway many Chinese, were they allowed to vote.
But what of U.S. policy toward China?
By Jason Warner, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jason Warner is a Ph.D. student in African Studies and Government at Harvard University. The views expressed are his own.
Last week’s final U.S. presidential debate, on foreign policy, included only passing reference to two sub-Saharan African countries – Somalia and Mali. But while the outcome of Tuesday’s poll will more likely hinge on the performance of the American economy than on any foreign policy issue, many with an interest in the continent are still wondering: what would a Mitt Romney presidency mean for Africa?
Given the paucity of insight offered up by the two candidates in the debates, it’s probably wise to start with Romney’s stated goals on his campaign website.
By Jason Miks
Editor’s note: GPS Editor Jason Miks speaks with TIME political columnist Joe Klein about the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Watch Klein on "Fareed Zakaria GPS" this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
A columnist in The Guardian this week suggested this may be the most divided American electorate ever. Whoever wins next month, can either candidate make good on President Obama’s pledge during his 2008 presidential campaign to bring the country together?
I actually think that either one of them is going to be in a strong position to make a deal. There’s a big deal coming down the road in terms of budgets and deficits, and I think it’s really interesting that on so many issues, the answers are now obvious. We’ve been in a period of real partisan gridlock, and I think that these problems are going to be solved.
Is one or the other candidate better positioned to do this?
No, I don’t think so. And I disagree first of all with the notion that this is a bitterly divided country. I think you have about a third of the country who hate the president and are Tea Party sorts. Then you have a much smaller “left” – perhaps about 5 percent of the country at most. But on a lot of major issues, I think there’s a real consensus out there, and I think the question is whether a Republican president like Mitt Romney would go with the national consensus, which is in favor of a balanced program for the future – restoration of the Clinton tax rates plus budget cutting and entitlement reform. And if Romney loses, the question is what does House Speaker John Boehner want his legacy to be? Some of it will depend on how much strength the Tea Party has coming out of these elections. We’ll see.
By Michael Newton, Special to CNN
Michael A. Newton, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Law, is co-author of 'Enemy of the State: The Trial and Execution of Saddam Hussein.' The views expressed are the author's own.
On Monday night, Mitt Romney reiterated his call for a stronger response to the growing prospect that a nuclear-armed Iran would undermine vital American interests in the Middle East. Romney said that he would “make sure that [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention.”
Incendiary public pronouncements by the Iranian leader are well-documented, and judging by the language of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), some might plausibly argue there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that Ahmadinejad could be charged with the crime of genocide.
But although a genocide case against Ahmadinejad is potentially feasible, it’s fraught with practical and political barriers.
By Erik Voeten, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Erik Voeten is an associate professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and Government. He blogs at The Monkey Cage. The views expressed are his own.
Last night’s foreign policy debate contained few surprises. As expected, both candidates sought to bring the focus back to domestic issues whenever they could. Each candidate vied to convince the public that he loved Israel more and that he would be tougher on China. Each tried to sound strong without coming across as bellicose. David Brooks observed in the post-debate analysis that Romney mentioned peace more than George McGovern ever did. On most issues, Romney did not disagree much with the strategies pursued by the Obama administration. He just claimed that he would have executed them better.
This is not unusual. On foreign policy, the candidates mostly try to persuade the public that they are competent. Partisan differences towards foreign policy issues are relatively minor, at least during this election season. The key is to convince the public that when you are in charge, Americans will be safer and more prosperous, more “bad guys” will be killed, and more “good guys” will live happy productive lives and thank the United States of America for it.
By Kelley Currie, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Kelley Currie is a senior fellow with the Project 2049 Institute in Washington. The views expressed are her own.
Given the harsh critiques of President Barack Obama’s China policy by the Romney campaign, including the candidate himself, there was a reasonable expectation that the section of the foreign policy debate dealing with these issues would produce some fireworks. Observers were likely disappointed, however, by the appearance of two candidates who tried to outdo each other in claiming that they would get tough on China while simultaneously building a better partnership with it.
While it would be unrealistic to expect in-depth analysis given the debate’s time and political constraints, it is unfortunate neither candidate took the opportunity to go beyond platitudes in discussing the extraordinary political, economic, strategic and ideational challenges that a rising, increasingly wealthy authoritarian China poses to U.S. interests. Instead there was more of the cognitive dissonance that has come to characterize U.S. policy toward our “frenemy” China. This problem was perhaps best illustrated by President Obama referring to China as both an “adversary” and a partner of the United States in the same sentence. Governor Romney likewise missed an opportunity to critique this awkward formulation using the points raised by his Asia policy advisor Aaron Friedberg in recent articles. Neither candidate talked about human rights issues, either with regard to China’s egregious record at home, nor its equally problematic role in undermining them internationally.
By Michael Rubin, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School. The views expressed are his own.
Iran took center stage Monday night at President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney’s third and final presidential debate. But any Iranian leader watching the debate will have walked away happy. While Obama and Romney both spoke about augmenting pressure on Tehran, and their opposition to an Iranian nuclear bomb, neither offered a prescription that will force the Iranian government to abandon its program. Nor did either candidate suggest that the threat posed by Iran was not simply nuclear weapons, but rather the regime that would wield them.
Obama’s talking points were more about politics than policy. He was quick to claim credit where none is due. While his policy now centers on sanctions, the pressure Iran now faces came despite Obama’s policy rather than because of it. Obama entered office determined to engage Iranian leaders diplomatically. “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us,” he declared less than a week after taking his oath of office. To claim credit for rallying the international coalition against Iran is to exaggerate: After all, during the Bush administration, the same coalition passed four unanimous or near unanimous U.N. Security Council resolutions to demand Iran suspend enrichment and to target sanctions toward Tehran’s nuclear program.
By Jason Miks
Fareed Zakaria discusses the importance of the third and final presidential debate taking place tonight in Florida, and looks at the issues likely to be tackled.
How many Americans really care deeply about foreign policy issues?
Well, the substance of the issue they don't care about. Foreign policy is a little bit different from domestic policy. In domestic policy you’re trying to see whether the candidate agrees with you or whether you agree with him. It’s often a checklist of things: abortion, the economy, taxes.
Foreign policy is really a prism through which people look at the character of the person, the values, the strength, the consistency. So it is important, but not in a direct way in the way that domestic policy is.
By James Lindsay, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: James Lindsay is senior vice president and director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are his own.
President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney meet tonight in Boca Raton, Florida to debate foreign policy. Both men hope that what they say will move voters in their direction. But that’s not always how debates go. Here are five memorable moments from past debates when presidents took on foreign policy.
1976: Gerald Ford entered his second debate with Jimmy Carter hoping to regain momentum. He ended up doing the opposite. Ford ended an answer to a question about his policy toward the Soviet Union by saying: “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration.” The perplexed moderator gave Ford an opportunity to revise his remark, but he only dug a deeper hole, insisting that Yugoslavians, Romanians, and Poles didn’t consider themselves dominated by the Soviets. Ford said after the debate that he was arguing that the Soviets couldn’t crush Eastern Europe’s indomitable spirit. But the political damage had been done.
By Michael O'Hanlon, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at Brookings (where he was a colleague of Rice’s for several years), teaches at Princeton and Columbia and Johns Hopkins and is a member of the CIA External Advisory Board. The views expressed are his own.
Beyond the issue of Benghazi, where as I wrote earlier this week I hope that tempers begin to cool and the September 11 tragedy begins to be placed in more reasonable perspective, I have two major concerns that can be posed in the form of a probing question to each candidate before Monday’s final presidential debate.
Time for Afghanistan clarity
For President Obama, having heard the vice presidential debate and Mr. Biden’s repeated statements that U.S. forces will be out of Afghanistan by 2014, is it not true that this is in fact contrary to administration policy?
By Council on Foreign Relations
Editor’s note: The third and final presidential debate will focus exclusively on foreign policy and national security. Four CFR experts weigh in on the questions and issues they believe warrant discussion. This briefing was originally published here. The views expressed are the authors’ own.
Stephen Biddle, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy
We know both candidates want to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan. And we know they have about the same timetable for doing it. What we don't know is how this will secure our interests there.
The war is likely to be stalemated in 2014 when the U.S. combat role ends and the Afghans take the lead. To maintain that stalemate will require multiple billions of dollars a year to keep Afghanistan's security forces in the field. If we’re going to keep writing these checks, what’s the plan for bringing the war to a successful conclusion after 2014? Is there one?