It was supposed to be 90 minutes on foreign policy; it turned out to be 90 minutes on anything but. Oh sure Libya was mentioned, Iran was mentioned, the size of our military remarked on, yet not surprisingly it kept coming back to domestic policies couched in their effect on how we can or cannot influence the world based on where we are economically, perceptions of us in the global community, setting an example for developing democratic nations. Zingers from this round included an almost irate president Obama when discussing Libya and the the implied cover up by Whitehouse officials, when discussing the military and his challenger pointed out our dwindling navy and other diminished forces he commented our current military have fewer bayonets, proving the point America’s military needs have changed over the decades. However perhaps the most important thing told to viewers, voters, looking at the evidence, reading between the lines is where our republican challenger’s plans, ideas, perceptions and understanding would take us as a nation going forward into an uncertain and tumultuous future. Hearing both speak on foreign policy even in the loosest sense provides the insider view of someone who’s done it and the views of someone looking from the outside to answer one key question in the public’s mind, is Mitt Romney ready to take on the tasks and complexities that come with running a country with as great a legacy as ours; is he ready to take on the hurdles we face to return to what many see as our former glory? The choice is yours, but I would have to say no.
Governor Romney spent most of the night cozying up to Obama foreign policy perhaps in an effort to reassure voters we are not going headlong into another war under a Romney presidency to deal with either Syria or Iran. He also seems to be living in some sort of la, la land when he repeatedly talks about working with our allies in the above regions, most of whom are only allies in the sense that they do not want to kill us or are indifferent to us, vs. some sort of kumbaya, hold hands let’s get global cooperation to achieve our goals kind of allies especially in that part of the world, demonstrated by the difficulty in finding other westernized nation’s cooperation when it came to Afghanistan and rooting out al–Qaeda,when it came to Iraq and the potential for WMD, eliminating the next plausible threat to harm the US and US allies, when it came to actions in Libya and the latest Syria. At the same time he wistfully talks about what we need to do instead consisting of ideas, let’s call them A, B, C and D so as not to confuse them with the 1,2,3,4 and 5 of the 5 point plan on revitalizing the US economy; A, economic development, better directed foreign aid for that purpose, B, better education, C gender equality, D establishing a rule of law, all in an effort to, as he puts it, get the Muslim world to reject extremism, turn from the path of radicalism. The problem, this isn’t a shopping list of things you tick off once you have retrieved coveted items from your supermarket shelves; neither is this a simple to do list of errands and household chores you run down throughout your day. Never answered in the debate or anywhere is how you convince leaders in Arab nations to renounce radicalism, forgo extremism when the holy book they read, the religious teachers they listen to call for jihad or holy war against non-believers, how you institute gender equality when much of the inequality comes from the strictest religious interpretation of propriety in that religion? Same applies to education; you cannot better education when people don’t want themselves or their children corrupted by western ideals, when not educating girls and women is morally upstanding in their view. Addressing what he called establishing the rule of law is perhaps the most naive of his statements, for there wasn’t a lack of law in Afghanistan or in Egypt, nor was there a lack of law in Libya or Syria before revolution broke out. It was Taliban religious law that decreed men not shave their faces, women wear full burka in public; it was dictator law ruling North African nations, not lawlessness.
By that same token when president Obama went around the world trying to gain more allies, seek peaceful solutions or at least begin the process, start to make progress on the goals listed in the previous paragraph republicans including, Mitt Romney, called it an apology tour. Yet the signal, the “apology” meant to be given to the rest of the world was as follows: we will no longer treat individual people as if they hold the same fanatic views as the country they were born into just because of where they were born, we will no longer treat groups striving for peace, order and security like radicals just because they happen to be Muslim, we will no longer inflame tensions in the region or here at home by presumptively classifying people who look and dress a certain way as Muslim, as a terrorist. No we are not trying to force a type of government on others; we are rather demanding that citizens in these areas have the right to choose the type of government they want, to pick a framework of government and stick to it. Any true apology given was to persons in turbans, head scarves, children bullied, called terrorist, singled out only because they are Muslim; apologies given were to people like the young Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for wanting to go to school, for saying of her own volition girls have a right to be educated too, because of the unfortunate situation world leaders have yet to rectify. The message was to the moderates, the reformers who want change toward a democratic way of doing things; we will work with you, we will work together and hopefully, slowly bring about stability and peace to a region continually torn by war, dictatorships and unrest. A message that by the way was welcomed and well received by all members of the Arab world, save terrorist groups like that Taliban, nor did it make the US look weak, per the Romney assumption. Rather the exact opposite, it finally made the US seem respectful of other nation’s rights to govern their way as long as the people received the proper choices in how they were governed.
Yes we may well have the smallest navy since 1917 and our air force may well be older and the smallest it’s been since 1947, but the president was right when he made his one liner about Bayonets; it is that way because, again as he said, we have air craft carriers in answer to the amount of ships we “don’t” have. Regarding the 2 million in military cuts wanted by the president and decried by the opposition, these are cuts approved by the joint chiefs of staff in an effort to create the leaner army system they say they currently need; it is likewise representative of wrapping up two wars, our completion of mission in Iraq, our expected 2014 pull out in Afghanistan. Mentioned but not thoroughly explained is the advancement of technology as it relates to military function; we no longer need to put boots on the ground or manned planes in the air to accomplish our goals. Unmanned drones can now do that for us. And no, that doesn’t mean we are trying to “kill our way out of this,” something Romney insisted we can’t do, completely forgetting it is in our own national security interest to take down top terrorist officials not only to keep them from planning the next attack that could devastate our shores, prey upon other unsuspecting parts of westernized nations worldwide, but concurrently keep them from establishing themselves in lesser developed, remote countries, not only preventing them from promoting extremism, inciting radicalism in their region, but preventing them from radicalizing persons in the western world with the latest provocative, terrorist training videos on YouTube, to say nothing of the ones already there. Bringing us to something else the republican candidate said this time in reference Israel, Iran and their growing nuclear capability, in his cataloging of Obama’s failed foreign policy regarding these two volatile nations he said you have to get the mullahsto change their minds and you don’t get them to change their mind by saying you want to put daylight between you and your ally Israel. Actually it’s far more complicated than that, you don’t “get the mullahs to change their minds;” you have to foster the revolution, political change that will replace the mullahs with a drastically more moderate religious body for the purpose of governing or a truly secular government. Here is where people get the idea Mitt Romney is not ready to hold the title commander and chief, isn’t ready to be leader of the free world, when he doesn’t seem to comprehend the impossibility of his suggestions, the intricacies of dealing with political systems, cultural values so different from our own.
President Obama pegged Romney as having the foreign policies of the 1980’s, social policies of the 1950’s and the economic policies of the 1920’s; what’s significant about that is how many times he mentions Russia in his convention speech, when asked about security threats to the United States that was the country that came up in some obscure relation to a minor problem vs. anything in the Middle East, anything to do with the negative developments surrounding the Arab spring. A stance mirrored in the statements of his running mate Paul Ryan when he debated sitting vice president Joe Biden; Russia came up again in reference to blocking NATO sanctions against Syria. What’s significant about Romney social policy is how eerily reminiscent it is to another primary candidate, one Rick Santorum, who openly called birth control unnatural, with no known medical training, said the amniocentesis lead to more abortions, who thinks solving solvency of social security entails another baby boom perpetuated by a post WWI tax policy consisting of those with the largest families paying no income tax at all. Add in persons like Todd Akin with his comments on rape and the other office runner who said children resulting from rape were a gift from god and you’re dealing with more than gender issues, more than the rights of women. Pointed out by political onlookers your dealing with a kind of hypocrisy from religious leaning conservatives also serving in the public office who don’t want sex ed., informational discussions about sex in schools but who think they can redefine rape and on the campaign trail no less, who do want to tell a woman what she has the right to do to her own body, beyond whether or not she can have an abortion, but rather she has basic access to birth control. Not to be over looked, controlling reproduction is about bigger things than reproduction; it becomes an economic issue when women can’t get birth control and have more children than they can afford, when they have to pay large amounts of money for birth control out of pocket because their insurance won’t, finding affordable childcare particularly for low income and single parents. It is a vehicle to racism attempting to return to Jim Crow laws preventing miscegenation everything from interracial dating, marriage to interracial children, dealing with any number of stereotypes about women who want an abortion, women who desire to use birth control or women who just think they should have the legal right to make their own medical decisions about their bodies with their doctors, their partners and no one else.
Now political watchers are saying that the president’s talk about Big Bird, binders and bayonets could be hurting him because people want to have real conversations not sound bites, one liners and humor at the expense of realizing these are important issues. However not only do one liners make otherwise boring politics palatable to audiences across all age groups, Obama is using it to point out the silliness present in the challengers platform, the silliness that has been in the republican party since early primary days as potential candidate, after potential candidate rose and fell in polls while more and more strange, scary and weird facts were revealed about their person and more importantly their politics. He intelligently and congenially brought to bear the fact that one, cutting funding to PBS essentially taking Big Bird off the air, defunding planned parenthood was one not going to solve the nation’s fiscal problems and two, it is utter foolishness to think it would. Incidentally the latter is not just an abortion mill but a women’s clinic providing breast and cervical cancer screenings, monograms or required referrals where equipment is not available. Additional services provided beyond pregnancy tests and requested terminations include STD testing, treatment, prenatal care for women wishing to keep their child or carry it to term and put up for adoption. As for the binders comment that went viral, blame our instant communication world and social media; no matter popular reaction, incumbent Obama’s point was valid, that instead of saying he supported the Lily Ledbetter fair pay act, even if it wasn’t his idea, his legislation, even if the first time he said so was on that stage in that very debate, candidate Romney answered the question by talking about the binders filled with women candidates for cabinet positions, about the flexible work schedules he was willing to extend to those women hired, nothing said or done about proliferating that through the whole of the American workforce. Comment blogs went wild citing the president’s own history with women in the Whitehouse, women working there who described it as an old boy’s club, saying it met the legal classification for a genuinely hostile workplace; perceptions Romney didn’t capitalize on rather preferring to speak about binders full of women. Or if there were additions put forth in the bill, name them as why you would not have signed it; instead voters got a story about binders full of women.
It is the republicans who continually demonstrate they don’t want to have meaningful, serious conversations about the problems, concerns that are paramount to voters, while on the flipside the president uses humor to better make his point rather than belittle the fact there is a point. It is republicans who have spent the entire year of this election presenting us with one joke candidate after another, a party whose organization looked like a haphazard small town, Mayberry election for dog catcher than anything ready to put forth, find, create a republican candidate for the highest office in the land. All of the strange legislation, jaw dropping, eye popping headline makers this year have come from the republican side of things; from personhood bills, to the squabble over insurance paid for birth control, to the comments of political surrogates on women’s wants from their government al-a Sandra Fluke. Mike Huckabee raised eyebrows speaking out against Natalie Portman’s Oscar acceptance speech where she beamingly exclaimed her fiancé had given her the most important role, motherhood, going so far as to say she shouldn’t have appeared considering her sate, an unwed, obviously pregnant girl. He spent the rest of his Fox news appearance decrying her choices confusing a bachelorette degree holding successful actress with the droves of teen parents who don’t finish high school as opposed to going after shows like 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom aired on MTV a network for young people, watched by young people. The tea party is the group of republicans who campaigned for office on upending Washington, that they got voted in is another problem, who were willing to ground things to a halt to make a point claiming their electorate wanted them to do just that. It was John boo-hoo Boehner, said by Barbara Walters to have some sort of mental health problem, she ought to having interviewed everyone from Mike Tyson to Michael Jackson toMuammarGaddafi, who couldn’t get his party extremists to tow the line, who walked out of debt talks that would have given us a 10 year debt solution. Yes there are 23 million people out of work, 46 million people on food stamps; the question is what are you, your party doing about it besides complaining about the other guy’s methods. We the people, we your electorate see a president trying to pass a jobs bill with nothing but opposition, a president who signed a fair pay act for women not just talked about binders. We see a president who did the best he could with reining in Wall Street, who passed healthcare reform at least one provision liked, used by almost everyone. The real question is Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan what have you done for us lately and what will you really do to our country in 4 years?