President Obama told Mitt Romney in last night's presidential debate: 'You say you would do the same things we did, but you would just say them louder.' Commentators draw sharp distinctions between the two men, but their foreign policy similarities are more striking than the differences.
President Obama landed a lot of punches in the presidential debate on foreign policy with Mitt Romney in Boca Raton, Fla. He was sharp, aggressive, and generally presidential, attacking Mr. Romney in almost every answer. His boast about his “strong and steady leadership” as opposed to Romney’s “wrong and reckless leadership” was telling. The president mocked his Republican opponent’s understanding of defense policy, explaining that the Pentagon’s horses-and-bayonets budget has fallen over time.
Mr. Obama’s truest line of the night, however, was when he said to Romney: “You say you would do the same things we did, but you would just say them louder...” Many media commentators have drawn sharp distinctions between the two candidates on international issues. Global perceptions of the two men are also noticeably different: Most of the Western world wants Obama to win.
In truth, however, the foreign-policy similarities between the two men are more striking than the differences. Obama is not as left-wing and dovish as many believe, and Romney is not as right-wing and hawkish as he would have us believe.
Obama has governed as a cautious realist, focused principally on America’s national interests. Obama’s speeches are about hope and change, but his foreign policy is about reasonableness and balance. He has also demonstrated a clear willingness to use force, sometimes unilaterally, to protect US security and interests.
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