Obama Grapples With A Crumbling Economy While Romney Steps Out Like Cold War Warrior
With three months to go for the American presidential election President Barack Obama and the likely Republican candidate Mitt Romney (he still has not been chosen as the candidate at the Party convention) are running neck to neck in the opinion polls with Obama having a slight edge in most of last month’s polls. Some of the polls surveys last month were as follows: Gallup Tracking: Obama 47% – Romney 45%; NBC-Wall Street: Obama 49 % – Romney 43%; Pew Research: Obama 51% – Romney 41%; Fox News: Obama 45% – Romney 41% and Rasmussen Tracking: Obama- 44% – Romney 47%. American elections are decided on domestic issues, mainly economic matters. Foreign policy, as pointed out by analysts, can only serve as a distraction unless of course a foreign policy issue could blow up to gravely endanger the security of America.
The economy which was severely impacted by the financial crisis which commenced much before 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president, had stabilised by the first half of 2012. The economy showed slight growth and unemployment figures improved albeit slightly. However during the last two months the unemployment rate has begun to climb and this is indeed ominous for Obama. There appears to be growing concern about the growing national debt, budget deficit and of course unemployment figures with the national average of unemployment hovering around 9 percent but it could differ greatly in certain areas. For example in the state of Nevada the unemployment rate is 15 per cent but in some counties it is said to be as high as 30 percent – levels that have not been seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s, commentators have said.
President Obama has attempted to stimulate the economy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by pumping in a $787 billion package and according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) it has increased the growth of the real GDP between 1.1 to 3.5 percent and increased the number of people employed between 1.3 million to 3.5 million. These were the signs of recovery seen in the first half of the year but the latest figures are showing a down turn now – just three months to go before the election. Obama is facing quite an uphill task.
His challenger Mitt Romney is a billionaire businessman and his proud boast is that he knows how to run a business unlike Obama who has not been in any business organisation. The Obama campaign has counter attacked alleging many administrative blunders made by Romney when he was the Governor of Massachusetts and also in some of his business enterprises.
Last week Romney ventured into uncharted seas – foreign policy, during his tour of Israel, Britain and Poland.
When American presidential candidates make speeches in foreign countries they are not really addressing audiences before them but talking to specific interest groups back in America.
While in Israel, he was obviously targeting the American Jews who are a very significant minority. Within them is the powerful American-Israeli lobby whose members are well entrenched in American institutions of finance and power. Romney was obviously attempting to exploit Obama’s disadvantage in Israel – his confrontation with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu over illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank and many other issues. Romney in his speeches referred to Netanyahu as ‘my friend’ in contrast to the tense atmosphere that developed in the White House when Netanyahu was hosted by Obama.
While Obama had been rather reticent about America’s support to Israel in the event of a stand off with Iran, Romney went much further in assuring American support in the event of a threat. ‘America will not look away in the face of an existential threat against Israel and use all measures to prevent a nuclear Iran’, he assured adding that ‘no option could be excluded’.
As a British commentator noted: Romney pushed the correct buttons for a targeted audience back at home. He indulged in veiled criticism of Obama’s policy towards Iran. ‘We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment of Iran is an option. The United States should certainly not join in criticism of Israel. Diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries, he contended.
Sounding like a warrior of the Cold War days Romney declared: We have to be honest that sanctions have not set back Tehran’s programme one iota. A strong military threat complete with sanctions are needed to have a chance to change the situation. This stands in contrast to what Obama wants: Obama has put strong pressure on Israel to refrain from a military strike against Iran and to give sanctions imposed and diplomacy time to produce results.
Romney also exposed himself to the charge of racism when he said that the superior Israeli culture was evident from Israel’s development gains in contrast to the Palestinian achievements.
However whether all this stirring rhetoric made in Jerusalem will have an impact on American Jews is questionable. According to a Gallup poll conducted in June this year 64 percent of American Jews supported Obama while only 25 percent of them said they would back a Republican candidate.
Arriving in London in time for the Olympics, Romney put his foot in his mouth when he said that Britain does not seem to be prepared to stage the Olympics. This has been reported as an absolute gaffe by the American press. This was an occasion where even the British with their stiff upper lip let down their hair and revelled in the magnificent show they had put up at a cost of 24 billion pounds sterling. Romney’s statement caused legendary American athlete, Carl Lewis – winner of nine Olympic Golds – to express disappointment in his fellow American. In his visit to Poland Romney was targeting Roman Catholics back at home by waxing eloquent on the achievement of Catholic Poland in democratic freedoms in contrast to Russia. He faulted President Vladimir Putin in reversing democratic rights, gains and liberty and held up Poland as an example of democratic reforms. He declared Russia to be America’s principal foe in contrast to Barack Obama’s intentions of wanting ‘to reset relations’ with Russia shortly after he was elected. Romney attacked Belarus president for his dictatorship and even Hugo Chavez far away in Venezuela.
Last week’s visit to Europe was Romney’s first incursion into foreign affairs and if he becomes the president of America he is showing much of the hallmarks of a Cold War warrior like Ronald Regan.