Stuck in the backstage shadows of a presidential campaign dominatend by the economy, international issues get a rare moment in the spotlight this week.
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney will have give important foreign-policy speeches before the Republican challenger leaves on a three-country trip designed to highlight his differences with the current administration’s diplomacy. The president addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno on Monday, with his opponent taking the same podium on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday, Romney leaves for London, the start of a trip he hopes will reassure allies overseas, who always fret about change in U.S. leadership, as well as voters back home, who always worry when a governor with no foreign-policy experience wants to be president.
The dueling speeches and the trip come against a backdrop of a presidential campaign that has given little attention to the diplomatic difficulties awaiting the next president. The dozens of GOP debates in the primaries included only a handful of questions on international issues with base-friendly rhetoric substituting for thoughtful discussion.
No one expects foreign policy to determine the winner of the election or achieve the high place on the agenda it enjoyed during the Cold War. But Romney faces the same challenge of any diplomatically inexperienced challenger taking on an incumbent: He must show that he is sure-footed enough to pass the threshold test that he can be trusted to be commander in chief.
--George E. Condon Jr.
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT
Solyndra Figures at Obama Fundraiser on West Coast
[Politico, 7/23/12] Two figures at the heart of the Solyndra scandal that has rocked the White House and been a major line of attack for Republicans were at an Obama campaign fundraiser in Piedmont, Calif., on Monday.
Obama Makes One-on-One Pitch in New Ad
[National Journal, 7/23/12] President Obama is up with a new TV ad, scheduled to run in swing states Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The ad shows the president discussing what he describes as competing visions for the country.
Obama to VFW: I'm Better for Vets
[Reno Gazette Journal, 7/23/12] Addressing a Veterans of Foreign Wars gathering before which Mitt Romney is expected to appear tomorrow, President Obama touted his administration's work for veterans' benefits, and the killing of Osama bin Laden. He told Republicans to stop playing politics with the military. Ahead of his speech on Monday, the Obama campaign released an online video, touting the president’s work on veteran’s issues.
Romney: Extend Bush Tax Cuts
[National Journal, 7/23/12] Romney supported extending the Bush tax cuts to give the winner of the 2012 election time to put their policies in place without facing the so-called fiscal cliff in January. No matter who is elected in November, Romney told CNBC's Larry Kudlow in an interview airing on Monday night, the winner should have "at least six months or a year" to put policies in place.
Obama Aides: President Will Visit Israel in a Second Term
[CNN, 7/23/12] As Romney embarks on a foreign trip with a stop in Israel, and as Republicans have hammered the president for not traveling there since taking office, Obama aides said on Monday Obama would make a trip if he were to have a second term.
Romney’s Tea Party Test: Who Will Speak at His Convention?
[National Journal, 7/23/12] For conservatives looking for assurances about Romney’s bona fides, the message that is broadcast from the Tampa convention stage—and who delivers that message—is a test. But signs don’t look good for a tea party hoping for its moment in the spotlight.
Romney campaign to circulate anti-Obama petition in Iowa
[Des Moines Register, 7/23/12] Romney's campaign is sending a chain email to Iowans urging them to sign a petition accusing Obama of misleading people. This effort is part of the campaign's "cronyism" offensive against Obama.
A Ghost Haunting Obama Named Barofsky
[National Journal, 7/23/12] Neil Barofsky is not the sort of guy you want popping up in a tight election race if you’re Obama, National Journal's Michael Hirsh writes. That's first because Barofsky is an all-too-credible critic of the Obama administration’s lopsided economic approach and because Barofsky is trying to sell a new book, which offers a devastating indictment of Obama’s team.
The Incredible Shrinking—and Increasingly Valuable—Undecided Voter
[Washington Post, 7/23/12] Over the next three and a half months, hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent trying to persuade the undecided, but only 6 percent of Americans say there’s a good chance they’ll change their minds over how they’ll vote. The Fix takes a look at the most polarized electorate since 2000.
Romney: Bureaucrats Don’t Get Business Challenges
[National Journal, 7/23/12] Romney on Monday attacked Obama for failing to understand the business climate and not meeting more frequently with his jobs council. Speaking to a group of business owners in Southern California, Romney said that career government bureaucrats cannot understand the challenges that those in the private sector face.
Nine Things We Learned From Obama’s FEC Report
[National Journal, 7/23/12] Hotline sifted through the 243,000 records contained in Team Obama’s Federal Election Commission report this month so you don’t have to. Among other things, Hotline found that the campaign is spending most of its cash on advertising, with polling a close second.
Stop Accusing Obama of Playing Chicago-Style Politics!
[Slate, 7/23/12] Slate's Jacob Weisberg is sick and tired of people accusing Obama of playing Chicago-style politics, mainly, he argues, because that era is 25 years gone and Obama never had anything to do with it.
The Politics of Anything Goes
[New York Times, 7/23/12] Faced with a tough reelection fight, Obama has in many respects adopted a strategy he first denounced eight years ago when he called for an end to the politics of division. The Times’ Thomas Edsall writes that the president’s approach today assumes a highly polarized electorate and tries to make the best of it.
Massachusetts Republicans Brown, Romney Share Staff—and Not Much Else
[Reuters, 7/23/12] Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., currently tangled in a fierce race to keep his Senate seat, and Romney may share a party, a state, and advisers, but they both illustrate contrasting ends of the political spectrum that have characterized this year's election debate.
Romney Had Mixed Record on Immigration in Mass.
[Associated Press, 7/23/12] Romney fought against in-state college tuition rates for illegal immigrants, and pushed to give state troopers expanded powers. But he also showed a more compassionate side, personally interceding on behalf of an immigrant teacher facing deportation. Romney’s mixed-bag immigration policies in Massachusetts shed light on how he’d tackle the issues as president.