Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Politics at the Water's Edge

If we need confirmation that Senator Vandenberg's famous statement "politics stops at the water's edge" is applying less in the post-Cold War era, Presidents Obama and Medvedev and Mitt Romney provided it for us this week.  The open mic moment where President Obama suggested the possibility of a future deal on missile defense with Russia caught the attention of candidate Romney, who criticized the President’s warmness to a country he considers “our number one geopolitical foe” on CNN.  Medvedev even entered the fray today, implying that Romney spoke like a candidate from the 1970’s.

The incident highlights the two divergent worldviews offered by the Republican and Democratic camps and provides an insight into the foreign policy debates we are likely to hear in the general election.  President Obama will portray himself as the savvy diplomat—an American that understands the subtleties of modern international politics and commands the respect of foreign leaders.  The Conservative camp will likely criticize what they view as President Obama’s capitulation on American values—such as a strong missile defense program.

If we can take one ray of hope from this incident, it might be Speaker Boehner’s reaction.  He argued that Republicans shouldn’t be too critical of what the President says in a closed-door negotiation overseas. Perhaps Vandenberg lives on after all.

1 comment:

  1. I thought this was a very interesting episode. I think there is a nostalgic desire on the part of many to return to a period where politics stops at the water’s edge and the U.S. operates with a single foreign policy (particularly while fighting a war). In reality, however, I believe that era is over. As seen during the debate over the Iraq War, and the partisan battles of the direction and funding over the war, politicians and parties are no longer compelled to unilaterally support the President’s foreign policy. I think Speaker Boehner’s reaction was an anomaly, and during the run up to November’s election there won’t be a shortage of political and policy attacks on President Obama’s foreign policy.