WHY A FOREIGN POLICY DEBATE IS AN ANACHRONISM
The third and final presidential debate of the 2012 campaign is to be devoted solely to matters of foreign policy. This is an anachronism, one that reflects neither the world we live in nor what constitutes the Achilles’ heel of American security. At first glance, the topics announced by Bob Schieffer, the debate’s moderator, appear reasonable: America’s role in the world — what should we be trying to accomplish and how — is a big and important matter.
IN TRIBUTE TO THE TEA PARTY
I’m not saying the Tea Party should be immune to criticism. Like most large political movements, this one has also had its share of excesses. Sometimes the rhetoric gets too heated. At times, its members have chosen to obstruct instead of fighting for a debt deal that would solve our fiscal crisis. And the same fervor that drove Pelosi from her speaker’s chair has also managed to keep Reid in his because of some deeply flawed Tea Party senate nominees. But, all in all, most Republicans I know prefer having the largest GOP majority since 1946 instead of Pelosi. We also liked having 700 new Republican state legislators elected in 2010, a national debate focused on less spending and a Democratic president who is now fighting for his political life. … Whether opinion leaders like it or not, the Tea Party helped engineer a Republican landslide, reframed the national debate and put the president so far back on his heels that even Mitt Romney has a chance to be president.
SNOW JOB ON JOBS
NEW YORK TIMES
It’s true that when Bain Capital started, it had only a handful of employees. But it had $37 million in funds, raised from sources that included wealthy Europeans investing through Panamanian shell companies and Central American oligarchs living in Miami while death squads associated with their families ravaged their home nations. …But back to the Romney jobs plan. As many people have noted, the plan has five points but contains no specifics. Loosely speaking, however, it calls for a return to Bushonomics: tax cuts for the wealthy plus weaker environmental protection. And Mr. Romney says that the plan would create 12 million jobs over the next four years.Where does that number come from? When pressed, the campaign cited three studies that it claimed supported its assertions. In fact, however, those studies did no such thing.
THE OPIATE OF EXCEPTIONALISM
NEW YORK TIMES
Imagine a presidential candidate who spoke with blunt honesty about American problems, dwelling on measures by which the United States lags its economic peers. …America is indeed No. 1, he might declare — in locking its citizens up, with an incarceration rate far higher than that of the likes of Russia, Cuba, Iran or China; in obesity, easily outweighing second-place Mexico and with nearly 10 times the rate of Japan; in energy use per person, with double the consumption of prosperous Germany. …Such a candidate is, in fact, all but unimaginable in our political culture. Of their serious presidential candidates, and even of their presidents, Americans demand constant reassurance that their country, their achievements and their values are extraordinary. Candidates and presidents generally oblige them, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney included.
NEW YORK TIMES
On foreign policy Romney has sometimes displayed the worst aspects of neocon and neophyte. On the particulars his policy playbook is hard to distinguish from President Obama’s, but on the stump we often get the swagger of a freedom-agenda cowboy combined with a gift for gaffe. This is not, of course, a foreign-policy election, but voters want a threshold level of competence and judgment. Romney’s goal tonight is to set a tone and an agenda that wins the respect of those who pay attention to the subject (and who will write the next-day appraisals) while reassuring the broader electorate that he can be trusted with our security.
OBAMA’S SECOND TERM
Romney’s five-point plan sounds good but is quite vague and, upon inspection, looks rather like five-point plans issued by earlier Republican presidential candidates. Moreover, Romney has been resolutely unspecific about his tax plans, leading to the understandable suspicion that he’s hiding something politically unsavory, either in the popular deductions he’d have to slash or in the programs he’d have to get rid of. Obama, by contrast, has been far more straightforward about what he would do about the deficit: He wants a budget deal that includes both spending cuts and tax increases. He has put forward rather detailed deficit-reduction proposals. … To disagree with some of Obama’s specifics is to acknowledge that the specifics exist.