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Gary Hart

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A Landslide Election

Posted: 08/18/2012 11:53 am

The media-friendly catch-phrase "It's the economy, stupid" appeals to those who like their politics, and their government, simple. By and large people do vote their pocketbooks. But those same people have sons and daughters in the military, work for companies with international operations, and are threatened, at least to some degree, by terrorists in dark alleys of foreign capitals. Let's call this globalization. Our economy, and the jobs it does or doesn't produce, now exists in an international set of complex networks.

So the economy the "stupid" candidate talks about, whether specifically or more likely vaguely, cannot be separated from this world. This means that our leaders, especially the president and vice-president, better know something about the world in which we operate and to whose financial, banking, communications, security, environmental and a host of other systems we are connected.

All of which suggests that the traditional three categories of policy -- economic, foreign and defense -- are interconnected and international. Thus, knowing a good deal about the 21st century world, having traveled it and experienced it, is more crucial today for a president than ever before in our nation's history.

On this scale, Obama-Biden beats Romney-Ryan hands down. President Obama, as the "birthers" dementedly remind us, had an African father and was schooled for a time in Indonesia. Yet he is an American, born in America. Vice-President Biden made foreign policy his focus in the Senate. Like the president, he is comfortable in the widest variety of international arenas. They both know how to relate to and communicate with foreign leaders and peoples.

Their opponents, on the other hand, have only the scantest experience in today's world. Mr. Romney served in a Mormon mission in France in his youth. Mr. Ryan has yet to share his international experience and outlook, quite possibly because he has spent his public life trying to calculate how to lower taxes and balance the budget without both shredding the social safety net and destroying all the discretionary spending that keeps our food, environment and streets safe, our workers trained and healthy, and virtually every other public service necessary to a civilized society.

We should not hold out much hope that the media will focus on this wide difference in tickets. This is in part because most political journalists have yet to understand the degree to which our economy -- jobs -- is internationally dependent and because the new strategy of campaigns, especially on the Romney-Ryan side, is to prevent the candidates from answering difficult questions or departing from a simplistic, scripted "message."

In a perfect world, the focus of this campaign would be international and the degree to which creation of jobs in America is so closely interwoven with world affairs. If that were to be so, this election wouldn't even be close.

 

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