The Candidates and The World

Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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What They’re Saying: Israel and Iran

by Newsteam Staff
September 24, 2012

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks during a news conference in Jerusalem September 11, 2012. (POOL New/Courtesy Reuters) Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks during a news conference in Jerusalem September 11, 2012. (POOL New/Courtesy Reuters)


On Iran

The Sacramento Bee editorial board has accused GOP nominee Mitt Romney of “parroting Netanyahu on Mideast policy,” describing the similarity of their comments as “an unseemly injection of a foreign leader into U.S. elections and foreign policy.”

Iran does not have nuclear weapons, but Netanyahu for 20 years has been scaremongering. In 1992, he predicted that Iran was three to five years from having a nuclear weapon. The United States should be skeptical, given the experience with Iraq, of getting drawn into attacks against hypothetical nuclear weapons in the most volatile region of the world.

James Kirchick writes in Haaretz that Israel should not be considered the guilty party if a conflict with Iran erupts, adding that Netanyahu is not attempting to interfere in the American election.

This plea [to ask Washington to draw a “red line” on Iran] by the Israeli leader, many commentators argue, amounts to interference in the U.S. presidential election. The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan writes that Netanyahu’s sounding dire warnings “in order to plunge this country into a war whose consequences are unknowable and potentially catastrophic is a new low.” … Last week on MSNBC, Time’s Joe Klein said that he had never “heard of another example of an American ally try[ing] to push us into war as blatantly, and try[ing] to influence an American election as blatantly, as Bibi Netanyahu and the Likud Party in Israel is doing right now.”

The Washington Post‘s Karim Sadjadpour and Blake Hounshell give their take on what would happen in Washington and on the campaign trail if Israel were to bomb Iran without prior U.S. approval.

This CFR Issue Tracker looks at both candidates’ stances on U.S.-Iran Policy.

On the Economy

In an effort to move on from the withering criticism that followed his “47 percent” remarks, the Romney campaign has started making use of a video from 1998 in which then-state Senator Obama says, “I actually believe in redistribution” (LAT).

“[Romney] must keep hammering home the fact that Obama has driven the country off the fiscal cliff,” reads an op-ed in The Marietta Daily Journal. “He must remind people at every opportunity of Obama’s redistributionist policies and efforts to transform the United States from a free-people, free-market capitalist country into a government-centered entitlement society–an effort that probably has a tax-cutter like JFK spinning in his grave.”

On Friday, The Washington Post’s editorial board responded, writing, “Mr. Romney himself has endorsed redistributionism.”

Mr. Romney favors–brace yourselves–a progressive tax code. He has said that one of the principles of his details-to-follow tax plan is to maintain the current progressivity of the code so that the wealthiest continue to pay the same share of taxes — that is, a larger share of taxes than the less well-off pay. Mr. Romney’s approach to taxing capital gains is similarly redistributionist: He wants to eliminate capital gains taxes for those making less than $200,000 but to keep them on wealthier taxpayers.

A Washington Post fact-checker also gave the Romney campaign’s socialist claims about President Obama “four Pinocchios” for taking the remarks out of context.

Read more about the candidates’ positions on the economy in this CFR Issue Tracker.

On China

In a week that saw the United States and China file competing cases at the World Trade Organization, GOP nominee Mitt Romney has introduced willingness to borrow from China (ForeignPolicy) as a litmus test for which spending programs he will cut. The move, Foreign Policy notes, plays into Romney’s ongoing argument that China manipulates currency and employs unfair trading practices.

Yuan Zheng writes on that Romney’s claims regarding China “will not be found to hold water,” and that both candidates should be expected to “pretend to be tough at times” as part of the campaigning process.

By playing the “China card,” Romney, of course, can win the favor of far-right anti-communist conservatives. Yet, his arguments, if inspected closely, will not be found to hold water. The two largest economies in the world are each other’s second largest trading partners. And despite their frequent disputes over trade, the US has seen its exports to China increase at a faster rate than those to any other market in the past several years.

No matter who is elected, he will find himself responsible for properly handling the U.S. relations with China. To accommodate specific groups and win more votes, a candidate may need to pretend to be tough in moments that can determine the fate of his campaign. But if he continues to ignore the common interests of China and the U.S. after being elected, he will only succeed in shooting himself in the foot.

This CFR Issue Tracker looks at both candidates’ stances on U.S.-China policy.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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