Editorial | In U.N. address, Obama’s disposition contrasts starkly with Romney’s
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 01:09
President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations on Tuesday, Sept. 25, touching on a number of subjects in recent international discourse, ranging from the Syrian crisis to Iran’s nuclear program. His speech focused on the implications of the death of the American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, after protestors, some of whom were armed with small arms, attacked the American consulate in Benghazi.
The president urged the world to react to transitions due to the Arab Spring with tolerance, encouraging them to support free speech and values that would promote conversation as these new governments attempt to foster freer societies. His speech called on these nations to understand the importance of such values, presenting “a choice between the forces that would drive us apart, and the hopes we have in common.” In a manner that recognized some harder truths about how people view him, the president offered his opinion of the role of free speech and America in the world:
“I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views — even views that we disagree with.”
This statement and the President’s overall approach to his speech draw a contrast with the foreign policy approach espoused by Mitt Romney. The president is known for his cool demeanor and detached pragmatism. In contrast, Romney, who has expressed moderate support for some ideas founded in neo−conservative philosophy, has stressed a need for the U.S. to be tougher; he has chided the administration for its apologizing for the anti−Islamic video that inflamed the Arab world in recent days, as well as for the president’s “reset” policy with Russia. Romney often remarks that the president is too compromising in his dealings with the world, often calling him out for his “apology tour” while purporting that the president does not believe strongly in American exceptionalism.
The contrast here between the two is legitimate, especially in mien. On his trip to Europe during the summer, Governor Romney hoped to up his foreign policy credentials. However, due to a number of missteps — not all his own — Romney’s trip resulted in a number of gaffes, ranging from his questioning the preparation of the London Olympics to suggesting that Palestine was less successful than Israel due to its culture. Much as he has on domestic tours, Romney lacked certain tact in speech that most politicians gain through experience on the job.
Perhaps comportment should not be everything in politics, but the way a candidate carries himself is undeniably important. One has to wonder how Romney would do addressing the multi−faceted United Nations, and whether he could overcome both his tendency to make gaffes and his belief in uncompromising values to be a bold, strong and unifying leader.