Tim Cornwell: Mitt loves teachers and Barack does too as candidates sit the third TV leadership test
IT WASperhaps the most startling revelation of the presidential foreign policy debate – Mitt Romney loves teachers. “Look, I – I love to – I love teachers, and I’m happy to have states and communities that want to hire teachers, do that,” he declared, in a closing segment supposedly devoted to China.
He didn’t want government pushing into schools, he admitted, “but I love teachers”.
It was only fair. President Barack Obama had earlier used a question on America’s role in the world to attack his Republican challenger for saying class sizes didn’t make a difference. “I think we all love teachers,” moderator Bob Schieffer reassured Mr Romney, to laughter.
Pundits had warned that an entire US presidential debate devoted to foreign policy would deliver global clangers from candidates vying to sound tough.
It left the sense of two wary, weary men wishing they could be home, where the votes counted, squeezing in domestic politics wherever possible. Part of leadership, Mr Obama insisted, “is making sure that we’re doing nation-building here at home”. For America to lead the world, Mr Romney said, “you can’t have 23 million people struggling to get a job”.
Republicans were saying yesterday that Mr Romney passed the “leadership test” on foreign policy, and, superficially, they were right. He made only one geographical blunder, about Iran’s access to the sea, and struck some oddly moderate tones. He insisted the US must do more than “killing bad guys” to combat Islamist extremism, while embracing drone strikes.
When Mr Obama sounded most presidential and informed, Mr Romney agreed with him. On Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan, Mr Romney sounded resolute, but dodged warmongering. Both men vied to prove themselves the best friend Israel ever had, with an eye on Florida voters.
But a Romney world looks a dangerous place. Russia is a “geopolitical foe”. Iran is “the greatest national security threat we face”. He showed a slightly ominous obsession with northern Mali, which has been taken over by “al-Qaeda type individuals”.
The debate hardly made for good TV. The most interesting moment, visually, came at the close, when families flocked to the podium, and Ann Romney both out-dressed Michelle Obama and out-numbered her with large male children.
By its end, Mr Obama had held his ground in the last two debates, but not made up for the first calamity. He scored with the best prepared hit of the night. Needling Mr Romney over his stand on Russia, he pitched in: “Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”
Four more years of Mr Obama and the deficit, Mr Romney claimed, and “we’re headed on the road to Greece”. The euro crisis, however, did not get a mention. Neither did global warming or food prices.
Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, now the quickest measure of conservative wisdom in America, warned Mr Romney that he was “backing himself into a corner” on China, while ruling out military action in Syria. “On day one I will label them a currency manipulator which allows us to apply tariffs where they’re taking jobs,” he said. “They’re stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods.” At the same time he said “we don’t have to be an adversary in any way, shape or form”.
It was part of a balancing act played often through the night, scattershot soundbites that sounded plausible but not always coherent.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west