As commander in chief, a president’s fundamental responsibility is to protect the American people—and that requires sound judgment and strong values. Over the last four years, President Obama has led with a steady hand—promoting our values and interests overseas while keeping our country safe. Mitt Romney, however, has left a trail of dangerous blunders and endless bluster without offering any specific policies.
In the last presidential debate, the President and Romney will illustrate which candidate is capable of passing the commander in chief test. With a series of missteps under his belt, Romney must—at minimum—answer key questions in detail to prove whether he meets the threshold necessary to be the leader of the free world.
Responsibly ending the wars
What we know: The President kept his promise to end the war in Iraq, has a plan to responsibly end the war in Afghanistan in 2014, and has refocused our efforts on the greatest threats to our security, like al-Qaeda. Romney has refused to outline a specific plan to end the war and called the President’s decision to bring all our troops home from Iraq “tragic.”
What Romney needs to answer: Will Romney commit to ending the Afghanistan war in 2014, as outlined in the plan that the President, alongside our allies and partners, has in place today? Under what circumstances would he push back our end date from 2014?
What we know: Under President Obama, we have devastated al-Qaeda’s top leadership and have brought Osama bin Laden to justice. Romney said it was “not worth moving heaven and earth” to capture bin Laden and has failed to put forth any specific policy on his plans to finish the job against al-Qaeda.
What Romney needs to answer: Would Romney continue the targeted counterterrorism operations that have been so successful under the Obama administration? What would he do differently?
What we know: As he’s said before, the President will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon and has implemented the toughest sanctions on Iran in history to assure Tehran complies. As a result, Iran’s economy is buckling—its currency has fallen about 80% since 2011. After months of dangerous saber-rattling, Romney now says the President’s sanctions are working.
What Romney needs to answer: What exactly would he do differently on Iran if he agrees with the President’s approach? Does he think it’s time to take military action?
What we know: Rejecting the failed go-it-alone approach of the previous administration, President Obama made it a priority to rebuild our strategic partnerships and international coalitions to confront shared challenges like the Afghanistan War, intervening to protect the Libyan people, and imposing the toughest sanctions on Iran in history. By contrast, Romney has managed to insult our closest ally, the United Kingdom, during his foreign trip and talks like he wants to return to the go-it-alone policies that came with a heavy cost.
What Romney needs to answer: How would Governor Romney work with our closest ally, the United Kingdom, if he couldn’t even get through a photo-op visit without insulting its leaders and its people? How would he work with the G-8 to continue helping the world recover from a deep global recession, when he’s talked negatively about nearly every member of the G-8 on the campaign trail? And how would Governor Romney get Russia and China on board with sanctions against Iran, when he blusters about both and claims that Russia is “our number one geopolitical foe”?
Standing up to China
What we know: President Obama has fought back against China’s unfair trade practices, bringing more trade cases against China in four years than President Bush did in eight. He also took aggressive action to protect American tire workers when China was flooding the market with Chinese tires, saving American jobs as a result. Romney called the President’s action “bad for the nation and our workers.” And now, Romney’s policies on China could cause a trade war, and have been roundly criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike.
What Romney needs to answer: Would Romney really designate China a currency manipulator on day one of his presidency, even though Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio and Speaker John Boehner have said it’s a bad idea that risks a trade war? Why is he now taking such a hardline on China, when in his recent book he called President Obama’s actions to protect American tire workers “protectionism”?
What we know: When Muammar Qadhafi threatened to attack and kill his own people, the President led an international coalition to stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and support the Libyan people as they overthrew a dictator. By working with NATO and Arab partners, the President accomplished this without putting a single U.S. soldier on the ground.
Romney has been all over the map on Libya, calling for action on one hand and criticizing the President for acting on the other. Rather than clarifying his policy, he actually ran down a hallway to duck reporters’ questions. When finally pressed, he said the intervention was too aggressive and then said the world was a “better place” because the intervention succeeded.
What Romney needs to answer: After taking so many conflicting positions, what exactly would Romney have done to protect the Libyan people? How does he square his contradictory positions that American intervention in Libya was at once too slow and too aggressive, or that he alternately questioned the removal of Qadhafi and then celebrated it? And does Governor Romney agree with Rep. Darrell Issa’s decision to release State Department cables that exposed the names of Libyans working with the United States on security and to fight extremism?
Mitt Romney has traded strong convictions and sound policy for bluster and blunder on foreign policy. The President has set the threshold for what it takes to be commander in chief. Given his current record, Romney has a lot of work to do before he can pass the test to be the leader of the free world.