U.S. Election: Election Rhetoric vs. Political Reality
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 24, 2012
Summary: The United States' international and domestic predicament has remained the same since the September 11 attacks, the invasion of Iraq, and the 2008 financial tsunami. No matter who becomes president, he will find it difficult to alter this political reality. Fourteen days remain until election day. One might say that voter expectations will determine the outcome of the presidential election. But it might be more accurate to say that voter feelings will determine the outcome of the presidential election.
Full Text below:
The final debate between the US presidential candidates ended yesterday. Only two weeks remain before election day. Polls show the two candidates tied at 47% to 47%. They are evenly matched. It is hard to tell who is ahead.
Twenty-two days ago Obama was well ahead in the polls. Nearly all election analysts assumed a Romney upset was impossible. But who knew Obama's performance during the first debate on October 2 would be so poor, and Romney's would be so assured? That debate set a record for the greatest disparity ever to emerge from a presidential debate. In 1961 Kennedy debated Nixon in the first televised presidential debate in history. It too resulted in the same kind of upset. Since then, Obama and Romney's election prospects have swung back and forth like a pendulum.
After the first debate, Obama became alarmed. During the second debate, he launched a strong counterattack. He constantly interrupted his opponent. He pointed his finger at his chest. He accused Romney of being wrong and dishonest. He just stopped short of calling his opponent a liar. The confrontation was rude and reeked with mutual contempt. It has been characterized as the least civilized presidential debate ever held. The second debate addressed economic issues. It was generally believed that rhetorically speaking, Obama would win.
Most foreign governments still hope and believe that Obama will be re-elected over Romney. After all, Obama has four years of experience. He is a known quanity. Obama seems more willing to allow emerging countries to share the world stage with the United States. Romney, on the other hand, apparently evinces an "America First, accept no substitutes" arrogance. Romney aides are mostly former Bush officials. They are the same neoconservatives who launched the war in Iraq. His Middle East policy grants Israel carte blanche. He will not hesitate to launch a preemptive war against Iran. In particular, Romney bristles with hostility toward Mainland China. His rhetoric has reached peaks unprecedented in previous presidential campaigns. If Romney takes office will he bring about dramatic changes in East Asia? This is why the international community was deeply concerned about the debate on diplomacy and national defense held on the evening of the 22nd.
During the final debate both sides found themselves in disarray. Obama was the incumbent president. Yet he acted like the challenger. He repeatedly accused Romney of "living in the past." He said Romney's security strategy was mired in the Cold War, in the 1980s, his social policy was mired in the 1950s, and his economic policy was mired in the 1920s. Obama's strategy was to portray Romney as a militant hawk. Romney countered, saying that attacks against him would not cover up the chaos caused by Obama's policy failures in the Middle East.
Romney has no practical governing experience. But his international policy rhetoric was passable. Romney comes from a Republican background. When dealing with security and defense issues, it is easy for him to win the trust of the American public. Americans are war weary. Romney did not need to underscore his hawkishness. Therefore, during the third debate he softened his rhetoric. In 1982 Carter debated Reagan. Once Reagan spoke before a national television audience, they no longer believed that Reagan would be so imprudent as to launch a nuclear war. Concerns about Reagan's ability to serve as commander in chief also evaporated. The third debate softened Romney's previously negative image. Obama ridiculed Romney's plans to expand the US Navy, saying Romney had no idea what era he was living in. Today's national defense no longer uses horses and bayonets, like World War I. Underestimating one's opponent could be counterproductive.
The final debate on the evening of the 22nd put Mainland China issues at the very end. But the two men did not deal with the issue of Mainland China's strength as well as they did during the previous two debates. Romney promised that on the first day after taking office he would classify Mainland China as a currency manipulator. But most experts believe that if elected, he would immediately find a reason to renege on his promise. Both men emphasized that the United States must ensure that Mainland China becomes a responsible world power. But they were reluctant to actually draw lines in the sand. The debate never touched upon important countries in Europe, or on Japan and India. The Middle East accounted for five-sixths of the time. Israel was mentioned dozens of times. Americans' international concerns are actually very populist and very narrow.
Let us review the results of the debate. Romney won the first debate. Obama the second. The third was a draw. But Obama scored more points. In the end however, the domestic economy, unemployment, and public hardship will determine the outcome of the election, not the international situation. The third debate will have little impact on the election. The three debates were rife with election rhetoric. On foreign policy, the candidates puffed themselves up feigning ruthlessness. On domestic policy, the candidates' policies created social divisions and confrontation. But the United States' international and domestic predicament has remained the same since the September 11 attacks, the invasion of Iraq, and the 2008 financial tsunami. No matter who becomes president, he will find it difficult to alter this political reality. Fourteen days remain until election day. One might say that voter expectations will determine the outcome of the presidential election. But it might be more accurate to say that voter feelings will determine the outcome of the presidential election.