Show us the difference — Presidential debate shows minimal contrast between incumbent and challenger
“This president’s policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East,” Mitt Romney said on Oct. 8, 2012.Gov. Mitt Romney delivered this line two weeks before the final presidential debate. Describing Oct. 22 as a debate is generous — 50 million voters saw differing semantics for identical visions of America abroad. President Barack Obama defended his limited interventionist foreign policy while the governor concurred on virtually every substantial issue.
This in itself should surprise few. The governor has never offered a contrasting vision of American foreign policy because he does not have one. President Obama walked on the governor in this non-debate because effective foreign policy is hard to argue.
Despite years of criticizing an alleged policy of appeasement as the “Obama Doctrine,” when given the stage, Romney adopted his own version of appeasement — abandoning all of his primary stances and banking on our media to applaud a centrist move instead of condemning his blatant pandering, in hopes of finding the non-existent middle ground on foreign policy.
In reality, President Obama occupies the moderate position after dragging the democratic party toward support of limited foreign intervention. The only contrasts available to the governor would be calling for troops on the ground in Syria and an attack on Iran or a move to the left to critique the president’s drone policy. He chose neither.
Further analysis of this debate serves as a metaphor for the 2012 election season. With all instant reactions, expert opinions and overflow of coverage, we are standing where any casual follower of politics could have predicted we would be back in June, a position banal enough to qualify as cliché. We have a vulnerable incumbent spared only by the weakness of his challenger.
Our election will be close, probably decided by Ohio. The winner will be sworn in to a split Congress, and without 60 Senate votes, he will not have much chance to implement the agenda he campaigned on. No bold vision for the next four years exists, and our budget nightmare will hold back either candidate’s aspirations as much as a split Congress.
Our choice lies more in what the candidates are than what they would like to be, and our president, Barack Obama, has been a true catalyst. For exactly 72 days — September 24, 2009 through February 10, 2010 — the president had the 60 Senate seats progress requires. The ripple effect of his term will be felt for decades in our military, gay rights, health care and, as depicted on Oct. 22, foreign policy. Romney contrasts as a windsock who holds, or has held, much of President Obama’s accomplished and proposed agenda. For our sake, let’s hope progress triumphs over opportunism.
Brian Marceau can be reached at email@example.com