What issues will surface tonight?....
1. America's role in the world
2. Our longest war - Afghanistan and Pakistan
3. Red Lines - Israel and Iran
4. The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - I
5. The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - II
6. The Rise of China and Tomorrow's World
These are a solid list for the candidates. One notable omission: Russia & the "reset" policy results (awfully bad, and a proxy for Obama's flawed foreign policy worldview, explained by Douglas Feith & Seth Cropsey). Other noteworthy omissions, Pakistan, North Korea & Syria, crisply framed by Daniel Byman.
Romney enters the debate with stellar polling news. He has made up 11 points (from 15 points down) on Obama in the latest Pew poll on foreign policy, and now even matches the president on "likability" in some polls, having closed what once was a 26-point gap; and the RCP average Friday showed Romney with his first Electoral College lead.
Questions Romney might raise:
Mideast. How about Romney raising the inability of sanctions to halt Iran's nuclear program, let alone, US-Iran direct talks--which the White House denies? (Iran, interestingly, reportedly insisted talks be delayed until after the US election.) Talks, if held, would bind Romney if he wins--at least, for one round; Mike Ledeen notes that many direct US-Iran talks have been held, but all were secret. Or explaining why confidence in our intel agencies is misplaced, given the historical record. Or why, if al-Qaeda is defeated, it inspires disaffected young Muslims to hatch bomb plots?
How about discussing the Islamist grassroots revival in Egypt? How about Obama's diplomatic rift with Israel, the latest incident being not telling Israel about planned talks between the US & Iran? How about the president's contradictory statements re Libya, out of synch with evolving intel assessments? Or the president's having skipped intel briefings for a week before and on the day after the Benghazi assault? Or the new White House Libya line, that al-Qaeda was NOT involved in the Libyan assault? Romney can put away the president on Libya because there is no way for "O" to walk back his town hall debate misrepresentations, and he won't have Candy Crowley to bail him out this time.
How about Iran?--given growing voter support for a strong policy versus a nuclearizing Iran. How about a nascent alliance between Egypt & Turkey, both turning more Islamist? How about a poll showing that Egyptians want an Iran alliance & nuclear weapons (87% of Egyptians want nukes)?
How about rising violent unrest in Saudi Arabia's oil region--the eastern sector, mostly populated by Shi'a hostile to Saudi Arabia's Sunni Muslim dominance? How about Team Obama looking the other way as Hezbollah assassinates a US ally in Lebanon?
How about raising the Palestinian issue, by noting that despite UN pleas of Palestinian agony, rocket-firing Gazans are awash in premium-priced iPhone 5s? How about showing that Israel helps Gazans, despite rocket fire? How about the deepening divide between West Bank & Gaza?
Asia. How about China preparing to test a new anti-satellite super-missile, capable of knocking out GPS & communications satellites orbiting 22,3000 miles above the Earth; earlier anti-satellite missiles could only target satellites in low-earth orbit, a few hundred miles up.
Moderator. Will CBS veteran Bob Schieffer interrupt Romney three times as often as Obama, as Candy Crowley did last week? Will he intervene on O's behalf? Not likely. Schieffer is an old pro, and though reliably liberal, will not want to displace Candy as worst-ever debate moderator.
Bottom Line. Tonight is Obama's last chance to score a knockout and reverse Romney's momentum. Failure here, 15 days before the final vote, would leave only a shock event in O's favor with the potential to alter the trajectory of the race.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Foreign Policy, Homeland Security, National Security, WMD, Nuclear Proliferation, Conservative Politics