The third and final presidential debate featured President Obama and Governor Romney taking their rhetoric abroad while physically debating in Boca Raton, Florida. For many voters, following the U.S. presidential election has surged because of the debates: drawing rough 60 million viewers for each one. A foreign policy debate is not only important for Americans to keep an eye on but, for a close ally like the UK, American actions overseas have a tremendous influence on the rest of the world.
The candidates weren't the only ones who prepared vigorously for the final battle. Across the pond, the lead up to the final debate was the cover story for many newspapers. For example, The Guardian had a what-to-watch-for article on the front page followed by a full two-page breakdown on American foreign policy. The first article began by describing how close the race is, with the candidates locked up in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll at 47 percent. (The number 47 is getting a lot of action lately). It then delved into potential topics including the war in Syria, the September 11 attack in Benghazi and the nuclear scare in Iran. Campaign expenditures were next along with where the candidates campaigned after the second debate and where they will be after the last debate is over.
The article did what it needed to by informing the British electorate about what to look for in the debate, however, the balance was a little off. The largest picture on the front page was of Romney and his wife Ann walking hand-in-hand. Not only was the first quote from David Axelrod, a chief Obama adviser, the article lacked any quotes from the Romney campaign. It is very misleading that the headline reads "Obama and Romney neck and neck" with a photograph of just Romney, and then never hearing from him or his campaign.
The Guardian also featured a two-page smackdown of Obama's foreign policy record. One article broke down all the major hurdles the president has endured over the last four years and attacked him on each one. Whether it was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his shaky relationship with Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the uprising in Egypt or the war in Syria it all boiled down to Obama's "soft power" approach to foreign policy. Otherwise known as diplomacy; or non-action, according to this one article. Again, Romney was nowhere to be found in any of these articles on the spread.
As for the web, the BBC and Sky News stayed in the middle, presenting both candidates previews one after the other. The BBC predicted an attack from the president on Romney's lack of foreign policy experience as his Achilles' heel and for the challenger to speak to Obama's refusal to issue ultimatums for Iran's nuclear program. Instead, Romney ended up agreeing with Obama's handling of Iran but mentioning that he would like to tighten the sanctions already put in place by the president.
Sky News portrayed the debate as a heavyweight battle with flashy lines like, "If you are hoping to see some solid head and body blows, and a possible KO, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed," from Jon-Christopher Bua, Sky News political analyst. Regardless of the style choice, Bua gave a fair portrayal of each candidate's game plan. The debate was very zinger-oriented with Obama firing on all cylinders, saying that Romney's foreign policy plans were outdated, "harkening" back to the First World War.
If you look at a general survey of the British media on this day, it all came down to which candidate laid out a foreign affairs solution, especially in the Middle East. So far, neither of them has. There was a report from the White House about possible one-on-one talks with Iran but nothing has been set. It is going to take a lot more to convince the American people that you should be president based on the fact that you think the other guy can't do a better job than you. The Guardian just about summed up the choice for president by quoting an Arab political blog, Awsaat: "although many of us are feeling disappointed by Obama's first term, unfortunately we can choose between the bad we know or the worse we don't know." The latter, of course, is referring to Romney.
Although Romney is consistently inconsistent on nearly every political issue during his campaign, he has said that if he were president, he would be aggressive and pump more money into the military. Obama has taken the diplomatic approach, opting for more peaceful conversations rather than immediately going to his military. But as evident in the killing of Osama bin Laden, the president's approach will shift with each and every situation. That brings us to the question of, should we be exporting hope abroad? Is it worth educating nations that have a different set of values than America or is it too late, in a situation like Syria, and military action is needed? The British media got me thinking about these foreign affairs questions, now it's time for the candidates to answer them for the American people before November 6.
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