Sunday, April 29, 2012

Foreign policy contrasts


Vice President Joe Biden delivered a  speech at NYU earlier this week in which he laid out the contrast between the Obama's administration foreign policy record, and the foreign policy comments made by Governor Romney during the campaign so far. (For some reason I can't seem to embed this video, but the link above will take you to it.) Unfortunately, the media has rather childishly devoted most of its attention to one unintentionally funny double entendre in the speech and not enough attention to its substance.

The vice president's speech provides a helpful catalog of the techniques the Romney campaign has used to smear the president's policies and attempt to set up a favorable contrast with his own ideas. Here are some.

The lie
Romney repeatedly misrepresents what the Obama administration is actually doing, By falsely accusing the president of "apologizing" for America or of failing to support Israel, Romney makes claims that are easily belied by the record. Biden called out Romney for adopting one of his party's favorite tricks: "Distort and mischaracterize your opponent's position. Keep repeating the distortions and mischaracterizations over and over again." This technique seems to have become a specialty.

The phony contrast
In foreign policy, there are always some areas of agreement between the two parties. But as Biden pointed out, in those areas, Romney fails to acknowledge that the Obama administration is already taking the steps that Romney promises to take. Romney has repeatedly promised, for example, that he will put in place tough sanctions against Iran, ignoring the fact that the Obama administration has already obtained unprecedented sanctions, and has gained the cooperation of other nations in enforcing them. Short of launching a war, which Romney has not said he would do, Romney cannot offer anything different, but he pretends that he does.

The outdated analysis
Romney's team holds a conception of our foreign policy challenges that seems to date back to the 1950s. By declaring that Russia is our most dangerous adversary (and even mistakenly referring to the Soviets and to Czechoslovakia), Romney has revealed that his thinking is still mired in Cold War ideology and that he is not up to the actual foreign policy challenges currently facing the country.

In the critical sphere of foreign policy, we have the choice between looking forward and looking backward. Biden's speech made clear that on issue after issue, Romney's approach would have taken us in the wrong direction, while President Obama has dramatically improved U.S. security and its standing in the world.  Biden also showed that none of Romney's criticisms of Obama's foreign policy make sense as a matter of logic or accuracy.

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