Beyond Benghazi: Does Romney Even Have A Foreign Policy?
("If this were not an election year, there wouldn’t have even been a concerted GOP response to the Benghazi tragedy, except to offer condolences for the victims.")
Let’s hope we get some real discussion about the country’s overall foreign policy in the final presidential debate Monday night and not just a rehash of the GOP’s made-up scandal over the government’s actions or supposed non-actions in the Benghazi, Libya tragedy.
President Barack Obama’s supporters should use social media and other web-based platforms right now to demand that the debate’s moderator, CBS News’ Bob Schieffer, not let the discussion degenerate into the make-believe world of Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s unsubstantiated and insignificant allegations.
The debate Monday night in Boca Raton, Fla. will focus on foreign policy. Romney is sure to try to make it mostly about American actions before and after the recent tragedy in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. It’s a craven move to use American deaths on foreign soil—deaths still under intense investigation in a volatile region of the world—as campaign propaganda, and let’s hope Schieffer calls Romney out on it. Obama’s supporters, however, can’t expect this to happen.
Frankly, if Obama is to blame for the American deaths in some way, then former President George W. Bush, the president Romney would most emulate if he’s elected, is to blame for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed 2,996 people and left more than 6,000 wounded. The attacks were also manipulated by Bush to garner public support for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have left thousands upon thousands of people dead and created a huge federal deficit that Republicans ignored.
This is not to minimize the attack—whether you call it an act of terror or not, a point of absurd obsession for Romney as the above video clip shows—on the embassy in Benghazi, but the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks hold much greater significance. Bush’s actions before and after the 2001 attacks should actually demand more debate attention than the Benghazi attack because so much of our foreign policy in the Middle East over the last decade has been influenced by those actions. Will Schieffer do the right thing and steer the discussion to what’s important?
As I’ve written in previous posts, these presidential debates themselves are not really debates in any technical sense. They can be called events or discussions or even spectacles, and their worth to democracy can be argued, but they are not about making clear arguments based on clear evidence, even if that happens on occasion. It’s not important within this system who actually wins the debate so much as who wins the media spin of the debate. That’s why Obama’s supporters need to get out in front of Romney’s predicted approach and continue making their case immediately after the debate.
Along with his criticism of how Obama handled the Benghazi tragedy, Romney will attack the president on his policy over Iran’s uranium enrichment program and his trade and monetary policies with China. Both these attacks are sure to be more risky for Romney. Severe sanctions against Iran have been implemented, and it’s hardly likely Romney will guarantee he will do anything differently than Obama. On China, Romney is especially vulnerable. The company he founded, Bain Capital, has deep business ties in China. In other words, Romney is rich at least partially because China is a “currency manipulator” and doesn’t conduct business on a level playing field with the rest of the world. Romney wants it both ways.
All of this will obscure the larger question of American foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, the scene of several recent uprisings in countries throughout the region. It’s a volatile region that demands a nuanced and fluid approach. What is our role in the Middle East? How have American policies in the last 50 year or so influenced this volatility? How has Middle East oil dictated our foreign policy approach? These seem like such simple questions, but they need to be asked, and the focus of the “debate” should focus more on larger issues than Romney’s crass politics. If this were not an election year, I would argue, there wouldn’t have even been a concerted GOP response to the Benghazi tragedy, except to offer condolences for the victims. Surely, Schieffer knows that.
. . . Romney, Republicans and conservatives have, in case after case, simply given up on crafting viable public policy. That wasn’t always the case. When Ronald Reagan took office, conservative think tanks were ready with a host of ideas for transforming what government did and the way it did it. As recently as the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush campaigned on, for example, No Child Left Behind and a faith-based initiative. Does Romney have anything similar he’s talking about during this campaign? Not that I’ve heard.
What he’s substituted for policy is scandal, on the one hand, and symbolism, on the other.
Obama’s supporters should make this type of craven, crass politics a major issue as they take to social media before and after the debate. There’s little doubt Obama will make an articulate case for his foreign policy achievements. Romney, however, will employ a “scandal frame,” hyped by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, because he has no larger ideas about foreign policy that substantially differ from Bush’s reckless policies.