Many American voters will be looking to elect a U.S. president who will untangle our messy involvement in foreign lands and maintain our reputation as the beacon of good in the world.
But, the desire to remain the most powerful nation in the world comes with some potential pitfalls. Are we risking our livelihood by involving ourselves in foreign disputes or are we risking our livelihood by not acting aggressively? These questions will hopefully be answered when President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney address the issues of national security in the presidential election.
How much time will they spend on the issue? Not long, according to governance studies expert Stephen Hess, a Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Brookings Institution.
“National security is not going to be a national issue in this campaign,” said Hess. “It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs and the economy.”
Granted, attention shifted to the international front this week when Romney went abroad, but “next week it’ll all be back to normal- they’ll be talking about the economy and Romney will try to focus on vice president possibilities,” said Hess.
Despite the fact that the November election won’t focus on national security issues, it’s important to note that Romney doesn’t have room to criticize the President on the topic.
“Obama has gotten quite high marks on national security,” said Hess. “In some ways it’s the reverse of the typical profile of the democratic party.”
Historically, the Republican Party is perceived as favoring stronger national security measures and more funding for them. A recent Gallup Poll that tracks results over the past 10 years shows that Republican voters consistently report higher interest in the issue.
However, Obama beats Romney in the national security category, according to a poll released in recent weeks by the Pew Research Center. When asked, “Who would do the best job of defending against terrorism attacks,” Obama won by 12 points. He’s received good marks in the past two years. Gallup reported that 54 percent of Americans believed national security was ‘just right’ under his presidency and 45 percent said ‘not strong enough.’
So if Republicans are publicly perceived as more concerned, why does Obama continue to beat Romney in the polling category?
“If you look at what [Romney] stands for it’s not all that different,” said Hess. “Part of his problem in his week overseas is that he got into trouble by trying to make more of a difference between Obama and himself than really exists.”
The poll numbers could also reflect that people remember Obama’s actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, whereas Mitt Romney’s plans have not yet been executed–they’re merely on paper.
Both candidates have articulated positions in campaign literature.
Romney emphasizes “Obama’s failure” on his website, saying that he slashed funding for our military and left the U.S. with outdated military inventory. His message stresses that no “peace dividend” will be reached when we are not at peace and “dangers to our security are mounting.”
As a solution, Romney says will increase the shipbuilding rates of the Navy and in turn, beef up our military strength. He says, “With proper management, we can do far better in controlling costs and getting more for our taxpayer dollars.” He acknowledges the burden of defense spending but believes increased spending will lead to the prevention of war.
How will he do this? His official campaign acknowledges, “This will not be a cost-free process. We cannot rebuild our military strength without paying for it.” He details that he will reverse Obama’s defense cuts and return to Secretary Robert Gates’ budget baseline from 2010. He outlines he will “set core defense spending- meaning funds devoted to fundamental military components of personnel, operations and maintenance, procurement, and research and development- at a floor of 4 percent of GDP.”
President Obama’s website breaks down his record in resume fashion: standing up for those who serve, taking the fight to Al-Qaeda, ending the war in Iraq, living up to our values, reducing the threat of loose nuclear weapons, promoting peace and security in the Middle East and preserving America’s commitment to Israel’s security.
“His record is good,” said Hess. “He got out of Iraq, killed the appropriate terrorists, there’s not much for Romney to go after.”