After the final presidential debate, all the pundits and commentators were front and center declaring winners and losers. You can tell this is a man’s game. It’s all about winning. For the media, the debate seems to have nothing to do with the issues at stake anymore, it’s about who emerges the clear winner. They ought to be giving out trophies. Yet notably absent from the discourse was any meaningful discussion of women, who were the real losers Monday night.
Obama was not just on the offense, but he was also taking a hard stance that bordered on the hawkish. It was difficult to watch these two candidates try to one-up each other on how tough they are. Tough, it appears, is being ready to fight and to have control of the world. How quickly the candidates, and for that matter the American public, seem to forget that other countries have the right to their own governments.
Romney accused Obama of cozying up to dictators like Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and the late Kim Jong-il of North Korea. Romney also kept talking about Obama’s apology tour when he took office. Well, I can’t imagine a better foreign policy than one that demonstrates that the U.S. is not a bully. After decades of manipulating and playing dirty with developing nations everywhere in order to beat the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the U.S. left a trail of blood that for many is still fresh, from Chile in 1973 and the Pinochet dictatorship to the Nicaraguan Contra war. And that’s just Latin America.
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Obama offers a fresh tone in a world where dialogue and mutual respect needs to be the new norm. This is why it was surprising to hear his hard-line tone about American military strength. Heck, he almost sounded like a Republican. Still, he had his moments. His stance on observing and understanding who the good guys are in the new Middle East was one of the wisest comments in the debate.
Nations are not black and white, they are many different colors and shades. And for the U.S. to drop in and take a side, as we’ve done hundreds of times in the past, has almost always led to bigger problems. Remember our friend the Shah of Iran? Romney and Obama would not have been sparring over Iran and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nukes had we handled that better in the 1950s.
Notably absent from the debate were women. This time Romney didn’t have binders full of women. He didn’t even have an index card of women, and neither did Obama. But at least the President addressed women’s rights a number of times when talking about the U.S. role in the Middle East. He said the U.S. needs to work with countries to spread democracy and advance women’s rights in those countries.
There is something to be said for the President when talking of foreign policy. He speaks of people and the importance of empowering individuals in other countries so they might join the “good nations” instead of simply looking at foreign policy as a military strategy that advances the needs of the U.S.
And yet, if we had to pick not a winner, but a loser in the final presidential debate, I would have to say that unfortunately, women were the real losers. Would that change if a woman ran for president?