The Candidates and The World

Transition 2012

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

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Election Day Update: Foreign Policy and the Presidency

by Newsteam Staff
November 6, 2012

Photo of the Day: Voters cast their ballots in a polling site built to service residents of the Queens borough neighborhoods of Breezy Point and the Rockaways in New York November 6, 2012. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters) Photo of the Day: Voters in a polling site built to serve residents of the storm-ravaged neighborhoods of Breezy Point and the Rockaways in New York City, November 6, 2012. (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters)


In the lead up to November 6, presidential candidates have debated a number of domestic challenges, the biggest being job creation and the slow economic recovery. They have also been confronted with a number of foreign policy issues from Iran and Afghanistan to the U.S. relationships with China, Russia, and the Middle East. And after the Inauguration Day, many of these pressing issues will require the attention of the commander in chief almost immediately.

Below is a catalog of materials from and other sources on the foreign policy positions of the candidates and critical issues that will confront the next U.S. president and the new administration. You can also see overviews of the candidates’ opinions and statements on fifteen international and domestic issues in these CFR issue trackers.

The President’s Inbox

CFR Video Briefs
A series of video segments with CFR fellows and other experts on vital foreign policy and national security topics that will face the next president.

CFR Backgrounder: What Is the Fiscal Cliff?
Regardless of who wins the election, one of the first and most pressing issues the next president will have to face is the so-called fiscal cliff. This Backgrounder explains how the United States arrived at the fiscal cliff, what the consequences could be, and what the prospects for progress are.

Foreign Policy: What’s the Foreign Policy Agenda for the Next Four Years?
“No matter who wins on November 6, the feature that is going to dominate U.S. national security planning over the next four years is constraint,” writes Stephen M. Walt as he examines the foreign policy issues that will face the next president.

Politico: Don’t Look Now: Foreign Policy Cliff Looms, Too
CFR’s Gayle Tzemach Lemmon writes that while the fiscal cliff is an obvious challenge facing the next president, “what is less obvious is that whoever wins the White House faces a set of cliffhanging foreign policy challenges — a series of tests that will confront him immediately and could bear as much import for the country as its domestic, fiscal twin.”

PolicyMic: Five Biggest Middle East Challenges for the Next President
Ryan Suto looks at issues including the rise of political Islam, the conflict in Syria, and Iran’s nuclear program as some of the biggest challenges facing the next president in the region.

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Foreign Affairs: The Debate About Taxes
Grover Norquist and Andrea Louise Campbell offer differing opinions about the effect of taxation on the U.S. economy and the country’s budget deficit.

Foreign Affairs: Stimulus or Reform?
Menzie D. Chinn, Karl Smith, and Raghuram G. Rajan offer differing views on the causes and aftermath of the current recession and the best policy response.

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Middle East and Iran

VOA: Obama, Romney Largely Agree on the Best Course for the Middle East
Jeffrey Young says the candidates may have strong differences on domestic issues, but there are “few sharp contrasts” on the Middle East.

LA Times: Neither Romney nor Obama Can Fix the Frenzy in the Arab Streets
“In the Islamic world, Americans are frequent targets, but we are neither the root cause of the region’s trouble nor the magicians who can make all problems disappear. An American president can prod, manage, contain and intervene, but he can seldom transform,” writes David Horsey.

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CFR Interview: China’s View of U.S. Presidential Politics
In this CFR interview, Jia Qingguo, a leading American studies scholar, says that despite the scapegoating of China during the campaign, “if the past experience serves as a guide, a new president will not significantly change the U.S. policy toward China because the relationship between the two countries has become so close and the interests have become so intertwined.”

Chatham House: U.S. Election Note: China Policy After 2012
This Chatham House paper lays out the likely China policy of an administration under either a second-term Barack Obama an incoming Mitt Romney, and discusses the international implications of these two alternatives.

CNN: Ten Big Questions for Obama, Romney on Asia
Patrick Cronin writes that Asian security issues have barely been discussed in the U.S. presidential campaign. How can a diminished U.S. military meet challenges in the region?

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National Security

National Interest: The Elusive Obama Doctrine
CFR President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow Leslie H. Gelb analyzes Obama’s foreign policy and national security record.

New York Times: Is There a Romney Doctrine?
Dozens of subtle position papers flow through Mitt Romney’s policy shop, but they seem to have little influence on his hawkish-sounding and content-thin pronouncements, writes David E. Sanger.

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Speeches and Statements on Broad Foreign Policy Issues

Third Presidential Debate Transcript
The third and final debate between President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney was held in Boca Raton, Florida, on October 22, 2012, and focused on foreign policy topics.

60 Minutes Interviews With Obama and Romney
CBS’ 60 Minutes interviewed President Obama and Mitt Romney for a program that aired on September 23, 2012.

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Kirsti Itameri contributed to this report.

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