Willard Mitt Romney will be elected the 45th president of the United States on Tuesday night.
And it will be good for Canada.
Historically, it has been difficult to defeat an elected incumbent able to employ the presidency's "bully pulpit" to command public attention, control the domestic agenda and act in international relations as no challenger can match. However, recently this "given" has been less compelling as both Jimmy Carter (1980) and George H.W. Bush (1992) were defeated when seeking second terms. For each, "the economy, stupid" (or the stupid economy) proved defining. Carter was cursed by double disaster: economic malaise and protracted incarceration of U.S. diplomats in Tehran, combined with the botched rescue attempt.
Essentially, however, political lore ordains that governments are not defeated; they defeat themselves. President Barack Obama epitomizes that adage.
Obama faced problems defining one-term presidents. He has lamented the Great Recession — forgetting it was our economic semi-collapse that helped propel him to the presidency. And the choices he embraced to counter recession proved inadequate at best and feckless at worst, leaving the country floundering after four years with persistent high unemployment, pitiful economic growth, and daunting debt and deficit levels. Moreover, our sociopolitical and cultural environment has worsened. Elected espousing "hope and change, the "change" has been toxic, and any hope he could reconcile political differences long evaporated. His domestic legacy is "Obamacare," a constitutionally dubious, comprehensive health services restructuring rejected by a majority of Americans.
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Moreover, his foreign policy has failed. He opened his presidency with an apology tour, including bowing to the Saudi king, visiting Mideast capitals, and ignoring Israel. In fact, although he has visited 32 countries (including France four times), he never visited Israel as president — a point most assuredly not lost on Israel's enemies. Tehran's centrifuges spin steadily closer to Iranian nuclear capability. His effort to "reset" relations with Russia torpedoed relations with Poland and the Czech Republic by ending plans for anti-ballistic missile systems. And his inability to construct a semi-plausible cover story for the disaster in Benghazi, which cost four U.S. dead, is more pitiful than Nixon's Watergate fiasco where at least nobody died.
Nevertheless, Obama is not a bad man; just a bad president. Such outcome was predictable by electing a candidate with the thinnest political credentials since 1944 when Wendell Wilkie sought the presidency. The U.S. population recognized this reality by repudiating wholesale numbers of Democrats in 2010's midterm elections; if we had a parliamentary system, Obama would have been ousted then. Instead, we've waited two more years to implement the motto "No more years."
It has been a long trail for Governor Romney. Apparently, one needs to be a "former" official (governor, senator) to spend 100 per cent of your day-to-day effort campaigning. And frequently, you must try and fail to learn the lessons necessary for "second time" success. Romney, like Bush 41, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon, first tried and failed. The Republican primary campaign was a marathon; always the front runner, Romney deflected glossy new challengers every month, debating or defeating each.
The result was demonstrated in the first presidential debate. In 90 vigorous, articulate minutes before 67 million viewers, Romney demolished the Democrat caricature of him as a robotic CEO who would eat your puppies and drown your kittens after gleefully firing you. Obama was a pathetic cipher in comparison. In subsequent debates, Romney displayed presidential presence while Obama exuded desperation.
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Polls have remained "margin of error" tight until this moment of truth. Nobody should bet their pension or their first-born child on the outcome. But a Romney victory will benefit Canada although our essentially good bilateral relations don't require major repairs:
Romney-Harper personal compatibility. It will be an easy association of conservative policy wonks rather than awkward sessions with a preening global rock star.
Easier economic relations. Anticipate quick approval for the Keystone pipeline absurdly delayed while Obama kowtowed to his left wing environmental activists. Something resembling a coherent North America energy/environmental policy also should be possible.
Improved U.S. economy rebounds to Canada's benefit. Can Romney create 12 million jobs, reduce taxes, balance the budget and turn water into wine while walking on it? Probably not, but Obama has definitively failed. Successful in dealing with a Democrat majority in Massachusetts, Romney has a better chance than Obama to get America moving again economically — and that can only benefit Canada.
A new page is turning.
David T. Jones is a retired State Department Senior Foreign Service Career Officer and a frequent contributor to American Diplomacy. During a career that spanned over 30 years, he concentrated on politico-military issues, serving for the Army Chief of Staff. He is co-author of Uneasy Neighbor(u)rs, a study of American-Canadian bilateral concerns and has published several hundred articles, columns, and reviews on U.S. - Canadian bilateral issues and general foreign policy.
(Photo courtesy Reuters)