Obama and Romney Talk Foreign Policy

The Gloves Are On as Candidates Avoid Any Weighty Issues

by Jason Ditz, September 23, 2012

CBS’s 60 Minutes has offered a look inside the policies of President Barack Obama and his opponent Gov. Mitt Romney with an eye toward the November election. In the course of a show-long piecing-together of interviews the topic turned to foreign policy, and those used to the soft-serve foreign policy debate of the campaign so far will be right in their comfort zone, as the two candidates differed in a very marginal, very vague sort of way.

Gov. Romney struck first, pushing the idea that the problems with US relations in the Middle East could be taken care of by berating Egypt and insisting that all foreign aid and diplomatic support was 100% contingent on keeping their treaty with Israel unchanged, adding that he would make it clear to every nation in the region that “Israel is our ally.”

When presented with a similar question, Obama insisted there was no real problem in the first place, and that if the US just stays the course over the long term the Middle East will automatically realign itself more in keeping with US interests.

Not to be taking away from his Israel-centric policy statements, Romney went on to lash Obama for not meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a recent visit because he was already scheduled to appear on the David Letterman show. Obama retained his own strategy of insisting that there was no issue in the first place, adding “I have conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu all the time,” adding that things Iran has said are a “direct threat” to Israel’s existence and that he understands Israel’s position.

Romney closed out his foreign policy remarks with a vague description of when he would go to war, saying he would do so if a “very substantial American interest” was involved and he was confident that the mission could be accomplished with “overwhelming” force. Underscoring the “depth” of his disagreement with the Obama campaign, he also mentioned Obama’s removal of “surge” troops this month, saying he thinks it would’ve been better to remove them in November instead of September because of the weather.

Obama closed by summarizing his foreign policy as having “ended the war in Iraq” and killed Osama bin Laden, saying that those are things that “the American people largely agree with” and challenging Romney to say if he plans to start a war.

That sort of heavy issue, needless to say, did not get addressed directly by either side.

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