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Is Foreign Policy Making a Comeback in Campaign 2012?

Will voters with laser-sights on the economy consider Benghazi at the ballot box?

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

September 28, 2012 - 5:31 pm
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The Obama camp tried to turn focus to another part of the world with an ad that’s part economy, part foreign policy — accusing Romney of happily investing in Chinese companies while jobs go overseas. Romney has accused Obama of not being tough enough on China.

They took the meme one step further today when Obama today blocked a Chinese company from acquiring four wind farms in northern Oregon — the first time in more than two decades that a U.S. president has blocked this type of foreign business deal.

Kerry’s speech at the Democratic National Convention was likely a preview of how Obama will try to hit at Romney in that third debate.

“We’ve all learned Mitt Romney doesn’t know much about foreign policy. But he has all these ‘neocon advisors’ who know all the wrong things about foreign policy. He would rely on them — after all, he’s the great outsourcer,” Kerry said earlier this month in Charlotte. “‘President Mitt Romney’ — three hypothetical words that mystified and alienated our allies this summer. For Mitt Romney, an overseas trip is what you call it when you trip all over yourself overseas. It wasn’t a goodwill mission — it was a blooper reel.”

Foreign policy’s resurgence isn’t limited to the presidential race, though.

In one of the redistricting face-offs that saw incumbent pitted against incumbent, staunchly pro-Israel Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) was defeated by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who signed a J Street letter calling for easing the Gaza blockade and courted Arab voters in the mixed district. In opposing Rothman, the president of the American Arab Forum accused the congressman of disloyalty to America out of his support for Israel.

Pascrell now faces Republican Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who called on Pascrell last week to cease his support for New Jersey Imam Mohammad Qatanani, who was faced with deportation for failing to disclose that he was a member of Hamas. “As a congressman who swore an oath to protect the Constitution, Congressman Pascrell’s stated intention of doing ‘everything in his power’ to subvert the efforts of the American government to deport someone whose stated intention it is to remove our First Amendment rights – perhaps the most important pillar of our Constitution – is preposterous,” said Boteach. “Not only must Pascrell utterly repudiate Qatanani and return all donations he has received from the imam and/or his supporters, but Pascrell must repudiate his public comments defending the Imam.”

In California’s San Fernando Valley, two strong supporters of Israel now face each other in the general election after emerging the top two candidates in the primary: Ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). Sherman currently has a 13- point lead over Berman, but that narrows to a five-point lead among Jewish voters.

For those Valley voters, their only choice come November will be to send a pro-Israel congressman packing thanks to redistricting.

Still, foreign policy was generally an afterthought at both nominating conventions and campaigns have tended to cater toward polls that show an electorate less concerned about the fall of a ruthless dictator as they are about a fall in unemployment.

That doesn’t mean both presidential camps aren’t playing like they believe they can gain ground on questions of global leadership and American exceptionalism.

Former President Bill Clinton welcomed Romney to the Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York on Tuesday as a former governor who supported Clinton’s AmeriCorps initiatives.

“If there’s one thing we’ve — we’ve learned in this election season, by the way, it is that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of good,” Romney quipped after thanking Clinton for the introduction.

Romney said he hoped to return to the meeting a year from now as president, “to remind the world of the goodness and the bigness of the American heart.”

“I never apologized for America. I believe America has been one of the greatest forces for good the world has ever known,” he said. “We can hold that knowledge in our hearts with humility and unwavering conviction.”

In another part of town, in another foreign policy speech just as suited for the campaign trail, Obama was telling the United Nations General Assembly that “America will never retreat from the world.”

“We will bring justice to those who harm our citizens and our friends, and we will stand with our allies,” he said. “We are willing to partner with countries around the world to deepen ties of trade and investment, and science and technology, energy and development — all efforts that can spark economic growth for all our people and stabilize democratic change.”

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Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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