Rarely do we see a member of the President’s Club (former US Presidents) publicly criticize a sitting president on foreign policy. Foreign leaders learn early the need to work together. This is why at times, we see former US Presidents traveling abroad to carry a message for a sitting president.
Sometimes a new President upon being sworn in changes their campaign position. President Barack Obama campaigned to shut down Guantanamo Bay but after being elected, left it open. There’s something about making the most difficult decisions when sitting in the Oval Office that enlighten the President of the impact their decisions have on Americans and the global community. That’s why tonight a Club member will not be confrontational against a man seeking to join the Club.
The candidates sitting in front of moderator Bob Scheiffer will appear Presidential and exhibit patience while their opponent answers questions. The Commander in Chief must appear in charge, in control, provide steady leadership, calm and comfort particularly in tough times. The man that does this best will win the debate. In other words it’s time to be professorial.
On foreign policy Romney has not always appeared comfortable. In fact he seems to rush to conclusions and speaks too quickly. He commented too fast about the Benghazi attack, criticized the London Summer Olympics to the British Prime Minister, and in the last debate, incorrectly said the President waited fourteen days to call the attack an “act of terror.”
Over the past few weeks, he has gained traction and looks more comfortable discussing the economy and creating jobs. The key for him to winning tonight’s debate are speaking with conviction and confidence while criticizing the President’s foreign policy positions. He will need to appear thoughtful and highlight how as Commander in Chief he will seek trade agreements that will bolster the US economy. And how he will strengthen relations with allies and cut aid to countries like Egypt and Libya that allow uprisings like the one in Benghazi that killed our US Ambassador. What he cannot do is make an “act of terror” mistake that makes him look anxious and uninformed like he did last week.
Obama comes into the debate with an advantage. He receives daily national security updates, knows the threats. He can explain his experience working with heads of state, success improving the US image abroad, highlight ending the Iraq war, and getting bin Laden, but he cannot dwell on them. He cannot be confrontational or cut Romney off as he did in the second debate.
In this format he has his best opportunity sitting next to Romney to explain to the American public, the global community and his opponent why he has made the decisions he has on foreign policy as the Commander in Chief and why they are working. Emphasizing trade agreements that will strengthen the US economy will go over well with undecided voters, but continuing to give aid to countries like Libya and Egypt without explaining how it helps US efforts to keep the world safe here and abroad will not. It’s time to be the Professor in Chief.