Obama: Osama bin Laden (Dead), Muammar Qaddafi (Dead), Iraq War (Nearly Over), Afghanistan War (Still Raging)
With an economy reeling from poor jobs report to poor jobs report, populist anger still raw over the Wall Street bailout, and his signature health-care overhaul losing support in the face of an effective Republican smear campaign, foreign-policy is an unexpected strength of Obama’s re-election bid. As commander-in-chief he ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011, in a high-walled compound outside the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad at the hands of a crack Navy SEAL commando team. It will “likely stand as Obama’s greatest achievement,” wrote Newsweek’s Howard Kurtz. “In my view, the president who found and killed Osama bin Laden will be very hard not to re-elect,” wrote the Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan. Not for nothing, Obama’s highest approval ratings are for his handling of terrorism, still upwards of 60 percent. He also oversaw one of the most effective NATO campaigns ever, which in a matter of months helped overthrow Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi without the loss of a single NATO soldier. While President Obama’s overall handling of the Arab Spring has received mixed reviews, history may well bear him out.. Obama has also kept one of his key campaign promises: In December 2011, the last U.S. troops began withdrawing from Iraq. (Fewer than 10,000 soldiers remain in the country, which, for all the continued security concerns, has firmly taken control of its own future.) In Afghanistan, the other great war of this past decade, President Obama has set a horizon for the country’s military engagement there, all the while pursuing a strong regional framework of peace in the recent Istanbul and Bonn conferences. His foreign-policy bona fides are so strong, in fact, that the GOP presidential candidates devoted one of their many debates, in early November, to trying to smash some holes into Obama’s record. They largely failed, forced instead to split hairs and fall back on their “no apologies” mantras.
Romney: Lived in France, Once Had a Conversation With Margaret Thatcher
While we’re not exactly in the “freedom fries” and “freedom toast” days of early 2003, many Republicans may be surprised to learn that Romney is fluent in French, something he picked up as a young man doing his Mormon missionary service there. Romney has also survived at least one high-profile diplomatic incident, when, in 2006, as governor of Massachusetts, he instructed the state’s security agencies to provide none of the traditional logistical support to former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami. “It’s outrageous,” he’d said at the time on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. (Khatami’s visit, approved by President Bush, included a talk at Harvard on the topic of tolerance.) More important still is the cred that Romney gets for passing the Margaret Thatcher test. Unlike Sarah Palin, whose desire to meet the Iron Lady was quickly squelched by Thatcher allies who called such a meeting “belittling,” Romney was granted an audience. “I talked with her about the many challenges faced by Britain and the United States, and I ended with an expression of my optimism for the future: ‘I am convinced that we will overcome all the challenges we face.’ Quietly, poignantly, she added: ‘We always have,’” he wrote in Turnaround, after he’d helped pull off a successful 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. What’s more, Romney has actually taken the time to read up on what some of those challenges may be, having devoted more than a hundred pages in his 2010 book No Apology to chronicling why the Ottoman and European colonial empires failed, and pinpointing (what he thinks are) our greatest threats: a resurgent China, imperialist Russia, and the continuing threat from Islamic extremism.