Foreign Policy Steals the Spotlight in Campaign

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As the election inches closer, the constant stream of issues being debated seems to cycle through the same topics: healthcare, tax cuts, the economy, the list goes on. Notably absent from this list is foreign policy, a topic that neither party in the campaign has any desire to call much attention to, especially with regards to the situation in the Middle East. President Obama’s Administration has received criticism from Republicans for being too accommodating of antagonistic actors in the Middle East while GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been accused of avoidance in addressing the situation all together (NY Times).

Foreign policy was quite suddenly thrust to the forefront of media attention when news broke that the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya had been attacked and set on fire by a mob Tuesday night, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens, as well as a diplomat and two State Department security officers (CNN).

This tragic event calls attention to the increasing instability in the Middle East, exemplifying a foreign policy issue that our country must address. But does the sensitive nature of the event mean it is an inappropriate campaign issue? Or does the gravity of the situation render it an important test of candidates’ foreign policy capabilities?

This is the question that voters must consider as they interpret the manner in which each candidate responded to the issue. The situation quickly turned from tragic event to politicized election issue as GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney criticized the Obama Administration’s response to the turbulent situation in Libya late Tuesday night.

“It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” he stated (NY Times).

Almost immediately after releasing the statement, Romney began to receive backlash for his criticism. The media exploded with unmasked outrage from Democrats, stating that Romney twisted what was simply first seen as a tragedy into an opportunity to seize the political stage in foreign policy (NY Times).

Regardless of whether or not it is appropriate, the media blowout over this issue has effectively made it into a campaign topic, leading voters to consider President Obama’s handing of affairs in the Middle East versus Romney’s conduct in responding to the course of action taken on these affairs.

There is definite legitimacy to the claim that Romney’s response was inappropriate. It can be argued that his statement was released was much too quickly and was brashly constructed. Furthermore, in light of the fact that American lives were lost, the comments can be viewed as simply in poor taste.

However, the opposing standpoint boasts a solid foundation as well since the situation in the Middle East is an important one. The Obama Administration needs to take full accountability for their actions and must come to terms with the fact that the current international state of affairs is one that can only be avoided for so long. Perhaps it would have reflected poorly on Romney not to take the opportunity to prove himself on an international stage, showing that he could, in fact, react and respond to this type of fast-paced development.

Regardless of who was in the wrong in this situation, the tragedy has become yet another test to the opponents in the upcoming presidential race to prove to voters that they should be leading the country. Now that their conduct has been displayed on a world stage, it is up to voters to choose whose method will prevail.

 

Works Cited:

http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/12/world/africa/libya-us-ambassador-killed/index.html?hpt=hp_inthenews

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/12/romney-attacks-obama-on-handling-of-embassy-attacks/?ref=politics

Image Credit: http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1157407.1347577145!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/romney13n-1-web.jpg

About author

Kristin Vargas

Kristin is a junior from Illinois double majoring in Political Science and Public Policy, with a concentration in Health Policy. At Vanderbilt, she is also a member of Momentum Dance Company, for which she dances, choreographs and handles public relations. She has interned for Illinois Congressman Robert Dold in both his district office and on his reelection campaign this past summer. With her major concentration in Heath Policy and all the excitement surrounding health care in the current political environment, her most passionate political interest is health care policy. She also is very interested in anything involving the Supreme Court, its history, and its impact on politics.

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