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: Education and National Security

by Newsteam Staff
October 24, 2012

High school students attach an aileron to a 41-foot surface-to-air Nike Hercules missile as students restore it at the George T. Baker Aviation school in Miami October 10, 2012. (Joe Skipper/Courtesy Reuters) High school students attach an aileron to a 41-foot surface-to-air Nike Hercules missile as students restore it at the George T. Baker Aviation school in Miami October 10, 2012. (Joe Skipper/Courtesy Reuters)
On Education:

In the Huffington Post, education advocate Brian C. Mitchell criticizes President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney for behaving like candidates rather than leaders on education:

With guiding principles in place, government and higher education can think together about the next “big idea.” These new ideas can look at ways to combine savings, economies of scale, new investment and redeployment of some funds to get us to reclaim America’s role as the leading exporter of intellectual capital. The United States can be first again on a global scale but only if voters understand that reclaiming the title is less important than regaining the momentum. And that’s where big ideas originate.

Earlier this year, CFR’s Edward Alden notes that CFR’s Task Force on Education report makes a compelling case that “the failure of the United States to maintain its leadership in education ultimately threatens not just U.S. prosperity but its national security.” And CFR President Richard Haass noted following Monday’s debate that domestic issues play a large role in shaping U.S. ability to project power abroad.

Both candidates wrote editorials for TIME last week, detailing their visions for education in the United States.

Obama:

We know that a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by more than $250,000. A great teacher can change the trajectory of a child’s life. That’s why, even as we faced one of the worst economic crises in history, I fought to keep teachers in the classroom. During my first two years in office, we worked with states to help save the jobs of 400,000 educators.

But we did more than just invest resources in our schools. We demanded reform in return. And for less than 1% of what our country spends on education each year, we spurred nearly every state to raise standards for teaching and learning. We did this by working with governors of both parties, because giving our kids the best education possible shouldn’t be a Democratic issue or a Republican issue — it’s an American issue.

Romney:

I am running for President because I refuse to accept that bigger government programs, more debt and fewer opportunities is the best we can do. As President, I will provide the leadership we need to meet this crisis head-on. I spent most of my career in the private sector, where the only way to prevent entrenched success from giving way to decline is to adapt, to compete, to innovate. We must pursue policies that inject this same spirit into higher education.

Some of our institutions have begun these efforts, but we must redouble them. We also need to expand the options available to students. Other models of advanced skills training are becoming ever more important to success in the American economy, and new educational institutions will be required to fill those roles.

On National Security:

The Washington Post editorial board writes that in Monday’s debate, the candidates agreed more than disagreed on substance, with the significant difference being defense spending.

David Ignatius concurred, also writing in the Washington Post that:

Romney backed Obama’s sanctions strategy toward Iran and said he favored military action only as a last resort; he declared Obama’s troops surge in Afghanistan a success and promised not to remain there past 2014, even if the Afghanistan is fracturing; he rejected military intervention in Syria, including a no-fly zone; and he endorsed Obama’s abrupt dismissal of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. His chief goal in the turbulent Middle East seemed to be to “help the Muslim world” and create a “peaceful planet.”

To make the role reversal complete, Obama stole many of what one might have expected would be Romney’s best lines: He was the first to express passionate support for Israel, “our true friend.” He spoke of America as the “indispensable nation.” And he had the relentlessly pugnacious, in-your-face presence of a man whose message, first to last, was: I am commander in chief.

Another notable aspect of the debate was its heavy focus on the Middle East. In Politico, Edward Luce of the Financial Times commented that two thirds of the debate will focus on a region that is home to less than 10 percent of the world’s population and noted that only fifteen minutes of debating were devoted to the largest U.S. creditor, China.

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