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American presidential elections: Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?

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IN OUR PART OF THE WORLD, we tend to look to the United States of America for leadership. Even more, we are fascinated with virtually everything American. Our love affair has not only to do with the fact that many, if not most of us, have relatives there who help to supplement what we earn and provide us with what we have grown to believe are the necessities of life, many of which our mauby economy cannot provide. But it is also much more.{{more}}

The American media, particularly Cable Television, is our daily diet. We see the world as the Americans see it. The American presidential elections are therefore eagerly followed by many of us, and rightly so. I always remember Julius Nyerere former president of Tanzania, jokingly saying that the rest of the world should vote in the American Presidential elections, because of the impact that America has on all of us.

For some time now, I have been disgusted with American politics but, like others, have been trying to follow the presidential race, although that has really turned me off. One would expect some kind of sophistication from the American electorate, but quite often what comes out is a narrow-mindedness and even backwardness. I had a recent exchange with a Vincentian friend of mine in New York who said she was voting for Romney. I asked her the reason for this and she said that Obama was a Muslim and a Socialist. In my shock, I said that there was absolutely nothing wrong being a Muslim, but then asked why was there this fuss last time around about Reverend Wright, Obama’s one time pastor, who was certainly not a Muslim. On the issue of being a Socialist I waited for a response that never came.

All of this is amazing stuff. When Americans call Obama a Socialist, Europeans must really be laughing. What is Socialistic about what he is doing?

Mitt Romney fascinates me (or is it angers?) I was about to say that I had never seen another politician like him, but paused on this because I could think of at least one other politician who like Mitt would stare you straight in your face and lie. I have never attached a great deal of importance to presidential debates and never understood what voters were looking for. The recent debates between Romney and Obama were farcical.

Most Democrats seemed to agree that Obama lost the first debate, but won the others. When Republicans tell you that Romney won the final debate on foreign policy, you have to wonder if they were looking at the same debate you were looking at. Romney was moving away from most positions he had held up to days before, looking before the camera and deliberately lying on a number of issues. The Republicans claimed that the strategy was not to take on Obama, but just to look “presidential”.

Sometimes, it is difficult to know what reactions are those of the analysts as opposed to the American public. In a debate, you are not to be too aggressive.

You cannot call your opponent a liar, even when everyone knows he is lying.

Women in particular, they say, are strongly opposed to any kind of antagonism.

Is all of this for real? The expressions on Romney’s face during the last debate spoke to someone who was completely out of his depth. So, he failed to take on Obama, whom he had been criticising so severely before. Instead he was agreeing with most of the positions taken by Obama, to the extent that one commentator said that he was just waiting to hear him endorse Obama.

He has been described as the “Etch a Sketch” candidate and certainly few persons could claim that they understand the real Romney or recognise any core convictions. His desire is to get into the White House at any cost, as if someone had willed it for him. Leaders of other countries around the world must be really confused as to where he stands on most issues relating to foreign affairs.

What Romney and the Republicans fail to realise is that there is a different world out there. People still look forward to American leadership and there is much that that country has that is admired in the rest of the world. They certainly do not want an America that uses the big stick and tries to dictate, but one that sets an example and relates to the rest of the world as part of the human family.

Romney goes to Britain, insults the British by criticising their preparations for the Olympic Games. He suggested that the Palestinians were poor because of their culture. All of this is not surprising, given the manner in which he dismisses 47 per cent of the American population.

Then there are the ‘undecideds’! Who are these strange beings? Have they been asleep over the past months? The gigantic sums, hundreds of millions, being spent on the campaign is another story. It is really sad that democracy has come to this, where those with money to spend can hope to influence the outcome of the elections. But that is America.

A strange country!

● Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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