The Election 2012 Weekly Report: The final countdown

For all the Jeeps in China

In the last full week of campaigning before the election, son of Michigan Mitt Romney drew the wrath of an unlikely constituency: car company CEOs. On the campaign trail last week, Romney told an Ohio audience, "Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China." The claim appeared to be based on a misreading of a Bloomberg story which reported that Chrysler would begin producing Jeeps in China for the local market to escape tariffs, but was not shifting production from the United States. Nonetheless, the Romney campaign doubled down on the attack with a new commercial claiming that, "[Barack] Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China."

A Chrysler spokesman described the claim as "a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats" and the company's CEO Sergio Marchionne, one of the Italians in question, denied in a letter to employees that any production would be moved to China.  General Motors also denied the ad's claims that it plans to cut jobs in the United States.

Marchionne wasn't the only Italian fed up with Romney's rhetoric this week. The La Repubblica newspaper ran an irritated editorial on Thursday after the Republican candidate mentioned the country along with Greece and Spain as a cautionary tale for the U.S. economy. 

Global warming back on the agenda

The issue of climate change has been conspicuously absent in this election. It was not mentioned once in any of the three presidential debates, even as both candidates touted their support for the coal industry. But the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy this week has put the issue back on the agenda, with political leaders including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggesting a link between the storm and human-caused global warming.

New York City's independent mayor, Michael Bloomberg, made a surprise endorsement of Obama this week, citing the president's steps on reducing carbon emissions as the main reason. His endorsement, published on, also blasted Romney for abandoning the emissions-cutting policies he supported as governor of Massachusetts.

Nonetheless, while both campaigns have been scrambling to respond to the storm, which dominated headlines for most of the week, neither candidate has gone as far as to put the damage in the context of climate change.

The Benghazi drip continues

The Central Intelligence Agency this week took steps to defend its response to Sept. 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. According to an account provided to the media by senior intelligence officials, CIA operatives rushed to the compound within 25 minutes of the attack and helped organize the evacuation of the survivors. The officials insisted they had encountered no resistance from Washington, though the information doesn't address the shifting accounts provided by the administration in the wake of the attack.

A story published on Foreign Policy this week also reported that documents recently found at the Benghazi site show that the team at the consulate was concerned that they were under surveillance on the day of the attack and weren't satisfied with the level of security provided by the Libyan government.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and National Security Subcommittee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) have written a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanding an explanation for the documents.

Playing the Castro card

The two candidates are running neck-and-neck in Florida heading into the last week of the campaign, and the Romney campaign has evidently decided to make a last-minute effort to lock down Cuban-American voters in the state with a Spanish-language ad noting the "endorsements" Obama has received from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Raul Castro's daughter, Mariela, noting also that the Environmental Protection Agency sent out an Hispanic Heritage Month email containing a picture with a mural of Che Guevara. The ad failed to note that Fidel Castro would prefer a robot to either candidate.

The latest from FP:

Frank Januzzi wonders why Chinese human rights were never discussed in the campaign.

Rosa Brooks says the Republican military voter is a myth.

Nick Schifrin on why both campaigns are afraid to talk about the eurocrisis.

David Rothkopf on why Sandy could be a political gamechanger.

Plus, stay tuned for the latest on election eve from The Cable and Passport

Joe Raedle/Getty Images


China and the case of the missing ping pong balls

Starting Nov. 8, Beijing will convene the 18th Party Congress -- a mass meeting of Communist Party leaders where President Hu Jintao will begin to officially yield power to leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping. After a year marred by the very public disgrace of former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, it's in the party's interest to portray the succession as a calm and smooth process.

But the raft of official and unofficial regulations imposed on Beijing in the days leading up to the Congress doesn't exactly communicate a steady hand on the tiller. The New York Times reports:

In recent days, kitchen knives have been removed from store shelves, Internet access has mysteriously slowed to the speed of molasses, and international news channels like CNN and the BBC have disappeared from television sets in upscale health clubs.

At the Bookworm, a popular English-language bookstore, the section previously devoted to Chinese politics and history has been stuffed with Stephen King thrillers, child-rearing guides and Victoria Beckham's "That Extra Half an Inch."

"We're just reorganizing," one employee said with a helpless shrug. "They'll be back after the party congress."

Even the accoutrements of China's national sport have been suspect. A message purportedly from Beijing's Traffic Management Bureau ordered taxi drivers to disable their windows during the Congress. "'Seal the door' by activating child safety locks on the doors. ‘Seal the windows' by removing window cranks," the traffic bureau advised taxi drivers. "During the 18th Party Congress period, taxicab drivers are to be on guard for passengers carrying any type of ball. Look for passengers who intend to spread messages by carrying balloons that bear slogans or ping-pong balls bearing reactionary messages," Bloomberg Businessweek wrote.

New regulations even require pigeon owners to keep their pigeons in their coop. In the 1971 Woody Allen movie Bananas, a rebel leader seizes power of the nation of San Marcos. He decrees that "all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now... 16 years old;" despite there being no threats to San Marcos from underwear. To be fair to Chinese leaders, pigeons have been used as tools of subversion before. "In the late 1990s, dissidents released pigeons carrying slogans written on ribbons tied to the birds' feet in southern China," Reuters reported.