Romney & Obama: Chalk and Cheese?
“Between Romney and Obama, there isn't all that much difference,” proclaimed billionaire George Soros.
''Really? Why not?'' ask the 47% Romney thinks are so endeared with Obama?
Or might George be right? Is there really no, or little, difference between the pair?
This is the dilemma faced by American-Muslims, when they vote next month. Who do they vote for? Mitt Romney, who has called for Iran to be attacked militarily and offered unconditional support to Israel? Or Barack Obama who has also continually threatened Iran, increased lethal drones attacks and offered unconditional support to Israel?
Or are the concerns above, all foreign policy issues, not something to consider ahead of domestic issues like taxes, healthcare and the economy?
This really is a difficult one. American-Muslim voters in parts of America can see their vote making a difference. Commentator Sabrina Siddiqui cites an authoritative Pew poll, when she writes that, “A significant number of the nation's 2.75 million Muslims live in key swing states, such as Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Virginia.” Reason enough for American-Muslims to get out and vote and have their voices heard by candidates.
Two prominent Muslim-American organisations, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), have been active in mobilising the Muslim vote in the USA and in highlighting the policy stances of both candidates to aid American-Muslims voters decide before Election Day.
But there exists another opportunity for voters to make up their minds. Tomorrow, both candidates go head-to-head in the first of three live televised debates. The effectiveness of the debates in swaying voters is questioned, but they are an integral feature of US elections and have been for a long time.
The US Presidential debates are so popular, that we even had a debate here in Britain for the first time, just before the last General Election in 2010, but all British voters remember of the debates is Gordon Brown “agreeing with Nick”. David Cameron later agreed with Nick [Clegg] too and formed a very odd coalition that has somehow lasted to this day.
So, what do CAIR and MPAC propose to American-Muslim voters, and what differentiating policy positions do they highlight?
CAIR published a “2012 presidential Voter Guide” highlighting candidate policy positions in easy-to-read paragraphs summing up both Obama’s and Romney’s positions as follows:
President of the United States of America
Residence: Washington, D.C. & Chicago, Illinois
Occupation: Attorney & community organizer
Economy: Supports overall middle-class tax cuts and increased taxes on top earners. To stimulate the economy and job growth, seeks passage of the American Job Act, which proposes to: cut the payroll tax in half for 98 percent of businesses; federally fund teacher, law enforcement and firefighter jobs at risk; extend unemployment insurance benefits; support additional back to work programs; and allow Americans to refinance their mortgages. Favors investments in alternative and renewable energy to create clean energy markets and combat rising energy costs.
Health care: Signed into law the Affordable Health Care Act, which created sweeping reforms of the nation’s health care system. The act prohibits health insurers from refusing coverage based on medical history. Requires most employers to provide coverage for workers. Extends Medicaid to more low-income individuals. Subsidizes low-and-middle-class Americans to buy health insurance. Creates a health insurance exchange to compare policies, rates, and other benefits.
National Security: With the killing of major terrorist leaders, including Osama bin Laden, seeks to ensure the demise of the al-Qaida network through effective targeting and destabilization. Has achieved 2008 campaign objective of ending combat operations in Iraq, although some troops remain, and refocusing operations on Afghanistan and al-Qaeda.
Commander in Chief: In August 2010, announced the end of America’s combat mission in Iraq, shifting thousands of troops into advisory positions. Plans the withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2011, and 33,000 “surge” troops by 2012. Supported U.S. involvement in the NATO-led operation to assist Libyan rebels to overthrow of Col. Muammar Qaddafi. Favors working with European and Asian countries to increase pressure and sanctions on Iran to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon.
Foreign Policy: Generally favors negotiating and collaborating with other nations instead of taking unilateral actions. Overall objectives include increasing trade and investment in America, restoring American leadership in Latin America, and ensuring energy security while fighting climate change. Supports “Arab Spring” liberation movements through working with other nations to pressure dictators into stepping down.
Immigration: Supports increased border security and more strict enforcement of employment laws. Proposes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants without a criminal record who learn English and pay a fine. Requested a Justice Department review of nearly 300,000 immigration removal cases to accelerate cases of illegal immigrants with criminal histories and to drop from the court cases of illegal immigrants seeking a path toward citizenship.
Civil Rights: Signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which ensures basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers. Signed into law the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced federal sentence guidelines for crack cocaine. Formally repealed the Pentagon’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for GLBT service members. Supports a secretive policy of targeted assassinations of U.S. citizens abroad who are suspected of terrorism. Permitted the FBI’s “racial mapping program,” which targeted racial, ethnic and religious groups for investigation by associating criminal behaviors with specific communities.
Former Governor of Massachusetts
Residence: Belmont, Massachusetts
Occupation: Business executive
Religion: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Economy: Supports lowering taxes overall and eliminating taxes on earned interest, capital gains and inheritance. Intends to reduce the corporate income tax to 25 percent. Aims to place a cap on federal spending and cut non-security spending by five percent. Seeks congressional passage of existing free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Intends to create jobs and lower energy costs by directing the Department of the Interior to complete a comprehensive survey of American energy reserves in partnership with private companies, looking to issue immediate drilling leases.
Health Care: Supports repealing the Affordable Health Care Act. As an alternative, favors greater competition in the healthcare market by permitting insurance companies to compete across state lines. Seeks to expand tax deductions to individuals who purchase their own insurance. Favors expanding Health Savings Accounts and ensuring that covered individuals cannot be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions. Plans to reform malpractice litigation. Favors individuals and small businesses forming purchasing pools to lower insurance costs.
National Security: Supports an additional $30 billion in military spending and setting a minimum for defense spending at four percent of the GDP. Favors increasing active-duty forces by 100,000 troops. Intends to modernize and replace the aging inventories of the Air Force, Army and Marines, and to increase the Navy shipbuilding rate from nine per year to approximately fifteen per year.
Commander in Chief: Critical of the current Administration’s plan to withdraw troops from Iraq by 2012. Supports withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, pending approval from military commanders. Cautiously supports the Arab Spring and plans to support individuals and groups seeking to build democratic institutions. Believes the U.S. should follow the “guidance of our ally Israel," instead of, “play[ing] the role of the leader of the peace process.” Supports military action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
Foreign Policy: Supports cutting $100 million from the foreign aid budget. Favors a tougher stance with China and Russia and is critical of the current Administration’s efforts to “reset”relations with Russia. Intends to direct the Treasury Department to list China as a currency manipulator and to consider placing duties on Chinese imports.
Immigration: Supports completing “a high-tech fence” at the U.S.-Mexico border and increasing border control manpower and resources. Favors providing green cards to highly educated immigrants. Criticized opponents for supporting state programs that provide education benefits to the children of illegal immigrants. Intends to crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers.
Civil Rights: Supports the current Administration's secretive policy of targeted assassinations of U.S. citizens abroad who are suspected of terrorism. Critical of providing constitutional rights to captured combatants. Supports a federal designation of marriage as being between one man and one woman
The CAIR document has clearly been designed to be read quickly and easily. The MPAC document (My Faith. My Vote. My Future.) on the other hand, is a longer and more detailed 30 pages and contains a very interesting twist. Whereas the CAIR document seems to have taken just seven issues which they believe are important to American-Muslims; the MPAC document features ten key issues, chosen from a survey of American-Muslims who were asked to list their top ten issues – brilliant and relevant stuff. MPAC then highlighted the presidential candidates differences on these ten issues which were:
2. The Environment
3. Taxes and the Federal Budget
4. National Security
5. Foreign Aid
6. Social Safety Programs
7. Social Issues
9. Foreign Policy Toward South Asia
10. Religious Freedom
A few highlights of policy differences include:
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
Democrats and Obama are focused on preventing terrorism across the globe.
This means continuing to invest heavily in intelligence and information sharing and promoting those networks among our allies.
Democrats will continue to strengthen our ability to keep nuclear and biological weapons out of the hands of terrorists, address efforts to better ensure border security and augment defense of our national infrastructure.
Ensuring the resilience of our critical infrastructure is vital to homeland security. Working with the private sector and government partners at all levels, we will develop an effective, holistic, critical infrastructure protection and resiliency plan that centers on investments in business, technology, civil society, government, and education.
We will invest in our Nation’s most pressing short and long-term infrastructure needs, including modernizing our electrical grid; upgrading our highway, rail, maritime, and aviation infrastructure; enhancing security within our chemical and nuclear sectors; and safeguarding the public transportation systems that Americans use every day.
CANDIDATE MITT ROMNEY
The best way to approach national defense is peace through strength, an enduring peace, based on freedom and the will to defend it.
This includes defending America’s homeland, including remaining vigilant in confronting global terrorism, maintaining a robust defense against threats arising from nuclear proliferation, including a strong ballistic missile defense for America and our allies, and promoting an effective, capable intelligence community.
The full commitment to America’s Armed Forces to ensure they are modern, agile and adaptable to the unpredictable range of challenges in the years ahead is also emphasized.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
In September 2010, Obama spoke at the U.N. and outlined a new foreign aid policy consisting of four key points:
-changing how we define development
-changing how we view the ultimate goal of development
-new emphasis on broad-based economic growth
-insistence on more responsibility and accountability for aid
According to the Office of Management and Budget’s estimates, Obama’s budget for 2011 placed the U.S. on a path to double U.S. foreign aid by 2015.
CANDIDATE MITT ROMNEY
Romney pledges to reduce foreign aid by $100 million.
He has also said he will stop borrowing money from countries that oppose America’s interests, in order to give it back to them in the form of foreign aid.
Romney also said that he supported foreign aid for defense, but not humanitarian purposes.
The only criticism that can said of the MPAC document is that there is slightly more detail of President Obama’s policies than Mitt Romney’s, and so giving a better impression of one candidate over the other. However, the document is still a good resource for American-Muslims to use both during the televised debates and indeed on Election Day.
Chalk and cheese? Or two sides of the same coin? Read CAIR’s and MPAC’s documents and tune in to tomorrow’s televised debate to find out!