A last presidential debate, a third round of face-to-face discussions, and the subject foreign policy: In these circumstances, it’s unusual to see a sitting president taking the role of challenger.
That is a telling point about President Barack Obama’s willingness to challenge Republican Mitt Romney’s positions on foreign affairs. With the election so close, Obama felt the need to pin Romney’s foreign-policy belligerence of the primaries on the new, more moderate Romney of the general election.
Yet it was also telling that Romney played what a lot of commentators called a prevent-defense, avoiding clashes wherever possible. Strikingly, Romney and Obama agreed on much more than they disagreed about.
The former Massachusetts governor, with even less foreign policy experience than candidate Obama had four years ago, clearly feels the electoral winds are at his back, even as new polls suggested the Nov. 6 race is at a dead heat.
On the one hand, we like the new and more moderate Romney. All along, we’ve been reasonably happy with Obama’s foreign policy, including its aggressive take-downs of Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders. The hard knocks of events, such as the embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya, cannot force the U.S. away from a policy of consistent engagement with the world, something Romney also stressed.
A steady hand is needed more than any new departures — much less the trade war with China that Romney might set off with his explicit promise to declare mainland China a “currency manipulator, on Day One.”
That is basically an empty threat, about as empty as Obama’s anti-China rhetoric in 2008. Obama’s attempts to court the same anti-China sentiments as the challenger don’t reflect the realities in the Sino-American relationships, that include security issues, human rights and other differences not related to currency ebbs and flows.
On a more parochial point, the foreign affairs debate did find considerable agreement between the two candidates on the larger issue of trade — something that is of great importance to Louisiana.
Our ports complex in Louisiana and the great trade highway of the Mississippi River make our state a natural winner if the next president promotes international trade and exports.
Both candidates pushed that theme, given that digging out of the wreckage of the 2008 recession continues to be a work in progress for the general economy. If trade is something the candidates want, Louisiana is well-positioned to give it to them — and that’s good for our state as well as the nation.