There is a temptation to get lost in the weeds of when President Obama recognized that the Libya attack was, indeed, an act of terror. But the key point is that Obama treated the anti-Muslim YouTube video as a provocation for the attack as if they had a moral equivalency. Otherwise, why constantly mention the video in the same breath as the attack? Why run an ad apologizing for the video in Pakistan? Why address the video in his U.N. speech? It may be a bridge too far to convince people that Obama was engaged in a coverup for political purposes trying to convince people there was no premeditated terror attack. But surely there is no good reason for lumping the attack and video together. It’s like saying “he murdered this guy but only after the guy called him a dirty word.”
But, beyond the specifics of Libya, a 2011 national survey by Pat Caddell and John McLaughlin provides the key lines of attack Mitt Romney should follow in the foreign policy debate coming up on Monday.
- Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world has decreased our national security: Although 30 percent believe it has increased our security, 47 percent feel it has decreased it. Romney should attack Obama for naivete in his dealing with the Arab world and for not seizing and holding the moral high ground but instead seeking to understand the other guy and give him the benefit of the doubt.
- Romney should stress that Obama’s policy toward Iran will not stop it from developing nuclear weapons: By 77-10 voters agree that this policy will not stop Iran. Asked what he would do, Romney should say that he will support Israel if the nation has to take military action against Iran. He should say that he does not believe we need to commit U.S. soldiers or aircraft but that we should provide Israel with the ordinance they need to destroy the Iranian missile sites. If Obama says this could lead to a general war, Romney should say that a strong posture does not cause wars but a weak one does. He should say that if the U.S. makes clear that it will help Israel if it comes down to that, then Iran will realize that it must curtail its weapons program. In the meantime, Romney should stress the need to support the democratic opposition to the Ayatollah. If it ultimately has to come down to a war, better now, before they have nuclear weapons, than after they get them.
- Romney should attack Obama for failing to discipline China. He needs to explain that we sell only $100 billion to China and buy $400 billion from them, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With the rest of the world, we hold our own in trade. That’s because of currency manipulation. Obama is frightened that China will stop lending us money. But he doesn’t understand that China lends us money because they have to. They buy dollars and sell yuan to keep the yuan weak so Chinese products are cheaper in the U.S. Then what are they going to do with all those dollars? Bet them in Vegas? They buy T-bills with them. That’s all they can do and that’s how the lend us the money. If they stopped manipulating, we wouldn’t need their money because we’d have an even balance of trade with them. By 20-75, voters do not believe Obama has been tough enough with China, and most see fear of their no longer lending us money is the reason.
- Romney should attack Obama’s advocacy of an 80 percent cut in our strategic arsenal with no reciprocal cuts from Russia or China. By 22-64, voters oppose Obama’s position.
- He should go after Obama for cutting American defense spending too much. By 32-58, voters believe the cuts are way too deep.
- Romney should press Obama about what he meant by needing space from Russia until after the election. Most likely, he was referring to a commitment by us that we would not orbit anti-missile satellites, a key concession which would make Iran and North Korea even more dangerous.
- Romney should criticize Obama for equating Israel and the Palestinians as two morally equivalent sides of a dispute. He should say: “If the Arabs laid down their arms, there would be no war. If Israel laid down its arms, there would be no Israel.”
- Romney should attack Islamic fundamentalism for its attitude toward women and criticize Obama’s politiical correctness and refusal to face up to the threat it poses. He should, for example, criticize him for removing any references to Muslim extremism from FBI training manuals and his firing of good conscientious FBI agents for being Islamophobic.
These are the milestones to a successful debate.