The Global Citizen
Category: Election News & Analysis
As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney made their closing statements, Monday night's debate on foreign policy was the final time the two candidates would meet before the general election on November 6th. For those of us that have been following this election cycle closely, the large number of foreign policy similarities expressed last night between Obama and Romney does not come as a shock. Sure, each candidate provided their own spin on the issues, but overall, they agreed on many points, including Iran, Israel, and drone usage.
It is also true that we live in an age of global interconnectedness; this election will have an impact not only on people living in Omaha, Nebraska, but also citizens of just about every nation on the face of the planet. It should be disappointing then, if not a bit disturbing, that a number of issues that should have been given air time in a foreign policy debate between two presidential candidates were not given the attention that they deserve.
We are probably beating a dead horse at this point of the election cycle, but most of the issues we are discussing at this point will be drastically worsened, if not totally irrelevant if global warming worsens. I discuss this connection further in a piece that I wrote earlier regarding the GOP's Platform, if one cares to read a bit more deeply. Ultimately, this issue cannot be resolved if we do not tackle it using a smart and concerted international effort.
Candy Crowley, I want to start by congratulating you on the great job you did moderating the Town Hall Presidential Debate. But disappointed doesn't begin to express how I feel about a question you didn't choose from the audience. You had a chance get the candidates on record on how they will deal with climate change and you blew it.
Some great topics were debated last night, but unless Bob Schieffer changes his mind and adds global warming to his issue list in next week's foreign policy forum, this will be the first presidential election since before 1980 in which the presidential and vice presidential debate series did not include a direct question about climate change, environmental protection or conservation.
A whole bunch of us tried to make it easy for you. Over 160,000 signed petitions that went to both you and Jim Lehrer. Google and the Commission on Presidential Debate asked folks to weigh in on important topics for the Town Hall debate, and over 11,000 chose "What actions will you take to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions?" as the most popular question. You ignored all of us.
For me, this is personal. I'm very worried about what kind of world my 15 year old daughter Hilary will inherit. Sure I am concerned about jobs, the economy and her getting a fair deal as a woman. Lord knows I'd feel better if assault weapons were off the street. But what does all of that mean if global warming goes out of control?
If I were lucky enough to be able to select a couple of questions for tomorrow night's Presidential Debate at Hofstra, I would choose some questions that have not been beaten to death on the campaign trail so far. Whether or not these important issues are touched upon in the debates, here are the ones that I would want to make sure that the next leader of the free world weighed in on before I went to the polls:
One glaring omission so far is climate change. There is no doubt that the Earth is heating up; the ice caps are melting and drought is rampant, resulting in higher food prices globally. This issue has been every presidential debate cycle since 1984, but so far this time around, there has only been silence. Although the Democratic Party Platform did touch upon this issue as a national security concern, Obama has not said much since the Democratic Convention. On the other hand, the Republican Party's skepticism concerning the seriousness of climate change (I mean come on, Romney joked about it during his convention speech) casts a lot of doubt on their willingness to do something about it. If Romney is going to change his mind (which seems to be an effective campaign strategy), he needs to give the message enough time to reach voters.
Bill Clinton's masterful speech to nominate Barack Obama summed up the philosophical difference between Democrats and Republicans saying, "We believe that 'We're all in this together' is a far better philosophy than 'You're on your own'.'' It's clear that these divergent views extend to the two parties' take on the rest of the world.
My colleague Andrew Hess has pulled together a great side by side comparison of the Ds and Rs platforms on Energy, the Environment, and Foreign Policy. There is a clear difference between the two that will impact our nation's role in an increasingly multi-polar interdependent world.
Democrats stress international cooperation, saying that "The greatest dangers we face--terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber and biological attacks, climate change, and transnational crime--cannot be solved by any one nation alone. Addressing these challenges requires broad and effective global cooperation."
They support ratification of treaties to limit nuclear testing, limit nuclear proliferation and support the rights of women globally. The want the US to lead efforts to "to set emission limits" on greenhouse gasses. They "are committed to modernizing [the United Nations] infrastructure for the 21st century--working to reform international bodies and strengthen national and multilateral capabilities to advance peace, security, and opportunity."
Now that both the Democrats and the Republicans have released their official party platforms for 2012, they can be compared side-by-side. We've done all of the legwork for you and have summarized their main stances on a number of issues. Hyperlinks are included and they will take you to the pertinent section of that party's platform if you want to read the actual text.
Update September 6: Changes made on the floor of the Democratic Convention have resulted in the platform stating that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the status of Jerusalem as an Israeli holding is a condition for any peace talks.
On August 21, the committee charged with composing the GOP’s platform for the 2012 election season submitted their draft to the party for approval. According to Fox News, the platform was “emphatically” given the nod on August 28th. While the usual news outlets have paid much attention to the sections of the platform concerning the party’s stances on abortion and gay marriage, the mainstream media has failed to address the Republican Party’s troubling take on the nexus between national security and climate change.
The language used by the GOP’s official platform is quite critical of the Obama Administration’s classification of climate change as a serious threat to national security. In fact, the new GOP platform states that the current national security strategy “elevates ‘climate change’ to the level of a ‘severe threat’ equivalent to foreign aggression.” If the GOP had done their homework, they would have encountered an overwhelming body of evidence coming from some impressive sources that outright contradicts their platform before it was approved and widely circulated.
For the past two and a half years, a big part of my job at Global Solutions has involved managing the work of our political action committee, Global Solutions PAC. I've met with congressional candidates from around the country, listened to their views on foreign policy, recommended endorsements and contributions to their campaigns, and attended fundraisers to show our support. It's been a great experience, and one that has taught me quite a lot.
Now, as I prepare to leave Global Solutions and embrace new opportunities, I look back on my time here and have a few thoughts and memories I'd like to share with you.
It doesn't take a genius or political pundit to know that most Americans are not primarily focused on foreign policy this year as they decide which candidates they want to send to the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives. Most voters, understandably, are more focused on jobs and the economy. However, there is plenty of evidence that voters do want to see a U.S. foreign policy that remains engaged outside our borders and works with allies and international institutions to build a better world. For example, according to a recent survey by the Better World Campaign:
- More than 80 percent of Americans support the U.S. playing an active role in the U.N.
- 75 percent of Americans support funding for U.N. peacekeeping
- 64 percent want the U.S. to pay its U.N. dues on time and in full
These numbers shouldn't be forgotten by those who aspire to hold political office in our country. Americans do care about what happens in the world, and about the role the U.S. plays in it.
I came across an interesting piece by Carter Eskew this week in the Washington Post. The post, "Compromises for Romney?" speculated about concessions Mitt Romney might have to make to please conservatives in his party if he wins the Republican nomination and is elected President this fall. Some of the speculation: John Bolton as Secretary of State; Newt Gingrich as U.N. ambassador; and Rick Santorum as attorney general.
It's going to be tough to lose the outstanding Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State in any case (as she's leaving after this term is up even if President Obama is re-elected). But I can't think of anyone I'd rather NOT see succeed her than John Bolton. He was refused confirmation as U.N. ambassador by the Senate in 2005 and 2006 (since he had expressed his belief that the U.N. shouldn't exist at all, that was hardly surprising) before finally getting the position during a recess appointment. Somehow, I don't think that having someone who opposes the U.N.'s very existence managing America's relationship with the rest of the world is a very bright idea. Bolton also said the decision to pull out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was the "happiest moment" of his political career to date.
The Tweet-Up was an amazing opportunity to actively participate in the State of the Union address! To give a brief recap, the speech heavily focused on the economy and job creation through American innovation. In fact, the President only devoted 13% of his address to international affairs, astounding considering the United States and the world are facing many global challenges.
In a speech that was full of specific plans and detailed programs on domestic policy, Obama’s commitment to combating violence and intimidation by supporting human rights worldwide was surprisingly bare of specifics. While saying that America has a huge stake in the outcome of transformations happening around the world, there was no explanation of what the U.S. is doing to actually save lives and protect the human rights of those at risk. He could have mentioned progress on the Atrocities Prevention Board he established last year, additional U.S. actions to help the Syrian people or his Administration’s efforts to work more closely with the U.N. Human Rights Council on preventing and monitoring human rights violations.
Despite my disappointment in the lack of substance on global policy, I was amazed at how the White House engaged the public so thoroughly through social media. Providing activists and average Americans with the tools to ask questions to senior level Administration officials right after the State of the Union was absolutely unprecedented. Twitter reported that 645,631 tweets were made during the actual speech alone. The White House YouTube channel reports that, as of noon on Wednesday, 185,507 people have submitted 99,340 questions to the Administration about the State of the Union.
- 1 of 11