America needs honest debate


After last week’s attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya, presidential candidates Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama finally have a chance to provide voters with unambiguously clear and definite stances on their respective foreign policies. Now, more than ever, “America needs a debate about foreign policy,” as one writer for put it in Saturday’s edition of The Economist. And now, like almost every other issue affecting the country today, this year’s election isn’t providing it.

The absence of a substantial discussion about issues that matter is something that has come to define the 2012 election cycle. From questions about the propriety of corporate tax codes to the handling of foreign affairs in places like Libya and elsewhere, neither candidate seems to be willing to talk deeply about problems that bear heavily upon the welfare of voters now and into the future. Instead, the candidates have, perhaps unsurprisingly, fallen to speaking in hollow platitudes and hurling insults at each of from a distance. The candidates — both of them — must put aside the rhetoric and engage in meaningful discussion.

Both candidates have their work cut out for them. Romney, whose campaign took a major hit this past week when he called the Obama administration’s reaction to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi “disgraceful,” must come around to talking about what he knows best — good economic sense. As a former partner in Bain Capital, Romney should continue to promote his knowledge of the American business enterprise and his standing as a champion the private sphere to convince voters that a 8.3 percent unemployment rate and a weak economy can be turned around under a Romney presidency. Obama, on the other hand, must demonstrate to voters how exactly the next fours years will be different than his first four, seeing as many consider his first term something of a disappointment.

What isn’t helpful — either for voters or for the campaigns of the candidates themselves — is resorts to partisan politics and ideological arguments about “cutting taxes” or “spending on public work projects” without any substantial backing as to why or, more importantly, how such proposals will be carried out. While this sort of behavior may have been acceptable in previous election years, voters must demand more from their political leaders today. The 21st century has brought with it serious hurdles that will likely not be overcome by the partisan politics of the past. America’s political leaders must concede to the possibility that yesterday’s solution may not necessarily be appropriate or useful for today’s problems.

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