Op-Ed: A European Parliamentarian on the US Elections
MP Fiamma NirensteinHon. Fiamma Nirenstein was the Vice-President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Chair of the Committee for the Inquiry into Antisemitism in the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
After the last debate between Obama and Romney, confusion reigns, the touted winner was glum in the face, with each poll telling a different story.
At present, there is no longer a challenger and a defender; their body languages send mixed signals: Obama was as tense as a gamecock at a cockfight on foreign policy, sat forward on his chair, would scrutinize each wink, each word of his rival and was always on the offensive;
Romney sat back in his armchair, with an unmovable posed smile on his face; with a studied presidential tone, he pronounced the word peace at the beginning, in the middle, at the end. A little too over the top. He was quiet and poised, not the warmonger depicted by the press.
At the end of the debate, CNN’s polls had Obama winning by 48 per cent and Romney only by 40 per cent. According to another poll, however, Romney could be the best commander in chief, a function that falls within the President’s duties, one of the most important tasks in the best-armed and most exposed country in the world.
Usually, the discussion on foreign policy is not that relevant; the challenge now rests on the memories that Americans have engraved in their minds of the Romney of the first debate, the one who wants to bring America back to be prosperous and influential.
To this purpose, Romney played defensively, by linking all issues back to economy, his realm, while keeping on guard on topics outside this realm. Basically, his debate’s strategy was astute yet ineffective, to the disappointment of the ones who would have liked to see Obama on the spot, confronted with his blatantly failed foreign policy, the deterioration of the United States’ standing, and the mistakes made with the Arab revolutions.
But Romney paid no attention to the lies and mistakes of the administration regarding the murder of Christopher Stephens, US Ambassador to Libya; he then adroitly swung away from the impression that he is a belligerent war-monger. Oftentimes, although he had the chance, he shied away from direct polemics, claiming he agreed with Obama on the decision to support Arab revolutions; he eschewed to take a stance on an Israeli intervention against a nuclear Iran; he applauded the killing of Bin Laden; he welcomed the withdrawal from Iraq and the messy pulling out of Afghanistan, expressing his concern about a nuclear Pakistan.
Romney swiftly addressed foreign affairs, avoiding stumbling blocks . While Obama, bit by the snake of criticism, came on strong: he blasted Romney on his stances on Iraq, China, Russia, and Israel, addressing personal topics, inconsistencies, mistakes ... until Romney reminded him that he was not the object of the debate, it was on international politics.
Harsher exchanges occurred toward the end of the debate, on the big picture for the future, with all stakes on the Middle East, Israel, and Iran, as well as military funding. Romney claims Obama recklessly questioned US exceptionalism by assuming an apologetic stance, not satisfactorily fighting Jihad and terrorism, and accepting bizarre characters like Chavez.
Yes, he did kill Bin Laden, but he didn’t defeat al Qaeda.
Tthe US has nothing for which to apologize – Romney said in his most fortunate line – the US never tried to conquer, they brought freedom to the world. Obama accused Romney for his inconsistent and incoherent stances, vested interests… My Middle East policy, he said, aims at the protection of human rights, we try to topple Assad’s regime, and I don’t accept a nuclear Iran…
These statements however can hardly be fact-checked, and it is unconceivable to assume that the US had the strictest possible attitude toward Iran.
It’s a fact, Romney underlined several times, that Iran is four years closer to centrifuges, it oppresses its citizens and terror is as usual, and it will continue to do so if the president will have four more years.
Obama proclaimed himself Israel’s best friend, but Romney argued “you visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and you shunned Israel”. At this point Obama reacted in personal terms, replying that while Romney had taken there his fund-raisers, he had visited Yad Va Sham as a candidate.
United States Jews, who have always been liberal, might change their minds, considering that Obama himself really changed very dramatically - and who could say he didn't change the United States' line of conduct in the Middle East.
(Sent by the writer in translation from Il Giornale)