Autumn in New York
Both candidates were in New York earlier this week as world
leaders gathered for the U.N. General Assembly. In his
address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Barack Obama defended the principle of free speech following this
month's riots in the Muslim world over an anti-Islamic video made in the United
States. "The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is
more speech -- the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and
blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect," he
said. After the speech, Barack Obama
was quickly back on the campaign trail, a move that was criticized
by some as the president chose not to meet with other world leaders during
the week, leaving most of the face-to-face diplomacy to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Obama and Mitt Romney
both addressed the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) that same day. Romney,
who joked after being introduced that "If there's one thing we've learned this
election season, it's that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of good," devoted
his speech to a critique of foreign aid as its currently conducted, calling
for a more market-based approach. "Nothing
we can do as a nation will change lives and nations more effectively and
permanently than sharing the insight that lies at the foundation of America's
own economy -- free people pursuing happiness in their own ways build a strong
and prosperous nation," he said.
In his CGI speech, Obama announced a new set of initiatives
aimed at combating human trafficking, including new training for law
enforcement and tighter restrictions on companies that receive federal
contracts. "It ought to concern every community, because it tears at the
social fabric. I'm talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human
trafficking, which must be called by its true name -- modern slavery,"
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu provided the U.N. General Assembly's most memorable
moment with a speech during which he drew a literal "red line" on a cartoon
bomb, meant to signify the point at which Iran would have nearly enough
enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon, necessitating an Israeli military
strike. Though Netanyahu has been accused in recent weeks of barely concealed
campaigning for his old friend Romney, he had kind words in his speech for
Obama's own warnings to Iran, saying, "I very much appreciate the president's
position, as does everyone in my country."
The red line in Netanyahu's speech, which he predicted would
come in "by next spring, at most by next summer," seemed
to indicate that Israel is not planning to attack Iran this year -- minimizing
the chances of an "October surprise" before the U.S. election. On the other
hand, Netanyahu's statement still
seems to be at odds with the White House's position by suggesting that it
is unacceptable for Iran to even have the capacity
to build a weapon.
There's little to celebrate in the poll numbers for Romney.
Even Fox News' polls have the GOP candidate trailing
nationwide, and a Bloomberg
poll released this week found that he has even lower favorability numbers
than former President George W. Bush,
who has been largely shut out of the campaign due to his lingering unpopularity.
On the other hand, the same poll found that Romney currently
enjoys a 48 percent to 42 percent advantage over Obama on the question of
which candidate Americans would trust more to fight terrorism. The poll is one
of the first to come out since the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in
Libya and Egypt, suggesting that the president has been damaged by the violence
in the Middle East and the mixed
signals from the administration over whether the incident in Benghazi was
actually a terrorist attack. On the other hand, Romney was also criticized for
what was seen as a rushed and overly partisan response to the events in
Benghazi and Cairo, which may be one reason he's mostly
keeping silent about them.
Ohio v. China
Barnstorming through the crucial state of Ohio, both
candidates have sought to portray
themselves as tougher on China. Campaigning at a factory in Bedford
Heights, Romney again promised, "One thing I will do from day one is label
China a currency manipulator. They must not steal jobs in an unfair way."
Speaking at Bowling Green State University, Obama countered "He says he's
gonna take the fight to them, he's going to go after these cheaters, and I've
got to admit, that message is better than what he has actually done about this
thing.... It sounds better than talking about all the years he spent profiting
from companies that sent our jobs to China." Last week, Obama announced that
the United States was filling a new case against China at the World Trade Organization
in the Buckeye state has responded well to the China-bashing, however. Toledo
mayor Michael Bell, who has sought to attract Chinese investment in his
struggling rust belt city, told the Financial
Times he wishes both campaigns would cut it out. "I have to say, the
campaign is really hindering us. The Chinese people we invited here are asking,
‘Why are you picking on us?'" he said.
French socialists for
French Prime Minister Francois
Hollande stopped short of endorsing a candidate in the U.S. election while
visiting New York this week, but from his response it seemed
pretty clear who his favorite was. "I'm careful to say nothing because
you can imagine if a Socialist were to support one of the two candidates that
might be to his detriment," he said. Hollande also defended Obama's
decision not to meet with other leaders, saying, "I think everybody fully
understood that Barack Obama is carrying out his campaign and he came to make a
speech, one which met the expectations of the United States."
The latest from FP:
James Traub wonders
if the Clinton Global Initiative speech revealed the real
Romney foreign policy.
Paul Bonicelli on
Amy Zegart looks
at why more
Americans support Bush-era counterterrorism policies.
John Norris asks
if America is ready for a male
secretary of state.
An FP Slide Show looks at Hillary Clinton's busy
week in New York.
Plus, the latest from the campaign trail at Passport and The Cable.
John Moore/Getty Images