Why This Foreign Affairs Debate Matters

New York, 22 October 2012

This is the debate Barack Obama wasn’t worried about. A sitting president who had overseen the killing of Osama bin Laden and the undermining of al-Qaeda versus a rookie whose first foreign trip as a candidate was mocked around the world.

But tonight’s third and final presidential debate which focuses on foreign policy doesn’t look so one-sided anymore.

Romney has opened up a number of foreign policy attack lines in recent weeks.

And Obama’s widely perceived failure to communicate a clear line over what happened in Benghazi, and the death of the US ambassador and three other Americans, hasn’t helped. Even when Hillary Clinton stepped into the line of fire and tried to take the blame, it didn’t take the heat out of the issue.

Romney has portrayed the president as unfocussed and distracted by his presidential campaign, and accused Obama administration of withholding information from the public about Benghazi so as not to hurt his campaign.

Romney has also criticised Obama for failing to provide strong leadership over his response to the revolutions which swept the Arab world.

The Republican challenger, while so far failing to offer foreign policy specifics on key issues which differ significantly from his opponent’s, has promised stronger American leadership. He has repeatedly accused the president of apologising for America.

Republicans love this kind of talk. And it is designed to win over undecided voters too.

With the latest poll, by NBC Wall Street Journal, showing the two candidates in a dead heat at 47 percent each, tonight’s debate could be crucial in giving either candidate an edge.

The idea of undecided American voters being swayed because of a debate on foreign policy is a little ironic given that, as poll after poll shows, foreign affairs are not top of their concerns.

Foreign affairs might be a key aspect of the job of president, and the performances of the candidates tonight will be poured over by analysts, but for most voters, downtown Baghdad, or even Benghazi is a long way from Main Street.

Comments are closed.