Comment: A Romney victory would be a disaster for America’s fragile international reputation

Caroline Mortimer argues American's international reputation will be damaged if gaffe-prone Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney wins the White House.


With the election drawing near, the field between incumbent Democrat President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney is narrowing, writes Caroline Mortimer

On the day of the final debate the score so far is 1-1 and tonight there is everything to play for. The idea Romney could just pip Obama to those vital 270 Electoral College votes was unthinkable even a month ago, but now it seems alarmingly possible as the polls narrow in the key swing states.

After a disastrous summer, including Romney’s gaffe-laden trip to the UK which was dismissed by the British Twitterati as a ‘romneyshambles’, it seems likely that, should he narrowly squeeze himself into the White House on November 6th, it will signal the final nail in the coffin for America’s international standing.

No other general election on earth is more important to the international community than this one. Despite the diplomatic and economic inroads made by China and Russia in recent years, America is still the ‘daddy’ of international politics and largely sets the tone when it comes to international relations.

However, for the average American, concerned about the rising cost of living and the stagnating economy, their international reputation means little so long as they remain economically and geopolitically ‘on top’.

Therefore, when they enter that polling booth in a few weeks’ time, they will not be thinking of the consequences of electing a gaffe-prone, oil drilling President who appears out of step with international issues and unaware they are doing further irrecoverable damage to the country’s ability to command respect abroad.

During the dark days of the Bush Administration the country was a laughing stock. ‘American’ became the by-word for intolerance, indolence and stupidity. In those eight years, a country at the forefront of science, innovation and culture came to be seen as ‘backward’ with its bible thumping, moralising and war mongering approach to domestic and foreign policy.

While its military and economic might still commandeered a grudging sense of fear, the days where it held a position as the world’s only superpower seemed a distance memory.

A country’s leader is the prism through which the rest of its population is judged. When the person occupying the Oval Office is someone as ignorant and insular as Bush or Romney, the people who elected him will be viewed the same way, regardless of how many people do or do not agree with him. The same goes for a Commander in Chief who is awarded (rightly or wrongly) the Nobel Peace Prize after only a few months in office.

So what will happen if Romney takes the White House? Is there a danger the new approach to foreign policy instigated by the Obama Administration and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that has won back so many friends over the past four years could be abandoned? Are we on the precipice of an American diplomatic disaster?

The presidency of Mitt Romney could go down one of two ways in the UK; either he could be hated by one side of the political spectrum and admired by the other like Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan or he could be subjected to the almost unique hatred meted out to his Republican predecessor George W. Bush.

It looks like Mitt Romney, with his strangely hollow policy platforms, notorious dismissal of the ‘47%’ and controversial running mate Paul Ryan, will fall into the latter trap. The Labour Party and most of the left wing political establishment are pretty open in their hopes for another Obama win with Ed Miliband even mocking Romney in the opening of his party conference speech at the beginning of the month.

Similarly, a YouGov poll (admittedly taken in September, before the first debate) of people in Britain, France and Germany showed only 1 in 20 had a positive view of the Republican nominee. A further 47% of respondents in the UK said they would “look less favourably” on America if Romney won.

Even one of his natural political allies, Conservative David Cameron, took a dim view of his comments on the Olympic preparations during his visit.

Responding to Romney’s accusations London was unprepared for the games, Cameron scathingly replied:

“We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world.

“Of course it is easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.”

America’s reputation has suffered in the post war era from its poorly thought out international escapades and hysterical internal reactions to welfare policy (Obamacare being a case in point).

True, there are many facets of its political culture that will continue to baffle and horrify the rest of the world for years to come, but if Romney were to win on November 6th that crucial, the grudging respect Obama has restored to the White House in the past four years will be erased once more.

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