Vision, character, judgment. That’s what people should be looking out for in tonight’s foreign-policy debate. It’s not going to be easy to discern any of these things during what is likely to be another slanging match between the candidates over the Benghazi affair or Chinese currency manipulation.
Americans by now know that foreign policy matters because it can have a profound impact on their daily lives and their economic circumstances. But it has received short shrift during a highly politicized campaign that has naturally focused on economic issues. Do you have any idea where Mitt Romney or Barack Obama intend to lead America over the next four years? Neither candidate is an ideologue; both evince a pragmatism that suggests a common willingness to take the world as it comes, rather than to try to shape it according to a preconceived vision. That probably explains why, when you clear away the heated rhetoric, there isn’t a great deal of difference in the policies they espouse for treating the world’s major problems. They both want to end the war in Afghanistan, prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, stand up to China’s assertiveness, and support a united Europe.
Thomas Wright, a fellow and director of the Brookings Institution’s Project on International Order and Strategy, said he hoped White House advisers had urged Trump to stay away from his personal experiences on the golf course. “It’ll be counterproductive,” Wright said. “Ireland is a democratic country with a rule of law. It’s not something any leader could give him, even if they wanted to. There’s due process for these things.”