As the story of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng continues to develop, Republicans and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney are taking the predicament as an opportunity to hit President Barack Obama on foreign policy (Politico).
Romney hammered the president for what he said was a possible failure to ensure the safety of Chen and his wife, after Chen agreed to leave the U.S. embassy in Beijing where he had taken refuge after escaping house arrest. “If the reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom and it’s a day of shame for the Obama administration,” Romney said Thursday at a campaign event in Virginia. “We are a place of freedom, here and around the world, and we should stand up and defend freedom wherever it is under attack.”
Chen spoke at a U.S. House hearing (Fox) via telephone, telling members of Congress that he always wanted to to leave China and said his earlier comments about staying had been a mix-up.
Obama himself has been quiet on the Chen matter, leaving most of the talking to the diplomats. “We need to really have a thorough sit-down discussion with him and his family to really explore what their thoughts are, determine what they’re thinking, and really find out what the options are,” said Gary Locke, U.S. ambassador to China, Thursday (NBC, video). “But let me just say that we have always been supportive of him for years, despite the struggles that he’s been through.”
With voters continuing to focus on unemployment, new data provides a mixed view on the strength of the economic recovery.
The latest Labor Department report on weekly jobless claims said seasonally adjusted jobless claims were at 365,000, “a decrease of 27,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 392,000.” But the report also said the four-week average increased slightly from the previous week.
Polling company Gallup says while their unadjusted figures show unemployment down slightly from March to April, when the the government’s April seasonal employment adjustment is applied, unemployment for April rose to 8.6 percent — up from 8.1 percent in March.
Gallup attributes some of the problem to unusually warm weather, seasonal adjustments, and an early Easter. “These factors may have made the employment picture seem better than it otherwise would have been, but that trend may not continue as the spring and summer months approach, Gallup says.
Gallup also says consumer spending is up slightly, with 29 percent of those polled saying they have been spending more in recent months than they used to but that “it isn’t clear if they are spending more because of improved economic conditions or because of the rising cost of consumer goods such as gas and food.”
Though Romney is presumed to be the Republican Party’s nominee for president, Michael Scheuer at Foreign Policy says Ron Paul, still campaigning in the background, is the best hope for U.S. foreign policy.
“If elected president, Paul’s most valuable contribution to a prosperous and secure American future might well lie in his application of a noninterventionist foreign policy, following the wishes of George Washington and the other founders,” Scheuer says.
Adding to the list of analysts examining President Obama’s foreign policy in an election year is Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon, who writes in Politico that questions about addressing Syria, Iran, and other international challenges will reveal important distinctions between the candidates and their parties.
“There has already been ample debate about the right foreign policy bumper sticker for Obama,” he writes. “Does he ‘lead from behind,’ proffer ‘hope and change’ act primarily as a ‘counterpuncher’ in responding to global events, attempt to manage America’s decline or seek to deny and reverse any such decline? All these suggestions have been offered. But Obama may be best identified as a ‘progressive pragmatist,’ as Martin Indyk, Ken Lieberthal and I argue in our new book.”
–Contributing Editor Gayle S. Putrich