Tomorrow the world finds out who will be in charge of America for the next four years. Tonight we have a preview looking at the issues that may define their term in office.
Amidst the graphic soaked coverage of election weeks, it is easy to forget that these soap operas, much like Channel Four soap operas, eventually end. When it does finally finish and the champagne bottles are empty, the winner and his team will undoubtedly have their fair share of challenges to meet over the next four years. Here are just some of the terms and conditions that come with being leader of the free world.
The grand narrative of the early 21st century seems already to be the movement of economic power from West to East and managing and reacting to the ascent of China will from now on be a vital aspect of any presidents administration. Mitt Romney has already promised to use his first day in office to brand China as a “currency manipulator.” While this wouldn’t be an inaccurate accusation, a hostile attitude towards China could achieve the opposite of Nixon’s 1972 visit and could effectively put a nation well on it’s way to becoming the world largest economy, back into the cold. With Beijing set to announce China’s new leader this Thursday, a new relationship between the leaders of the worlds two richest nations will without question, have a long-term effect on the fragile global economy. Getting this right will be pivotal.
As well as managing American relations in the Far East, the occupier of the White House will also have to oversee the delicate military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Both candidates are promising to bring American troops home by 2014, leaving two years for them to be judged on the stability of the country thereafter. Whilst ending the longest war in American history sounds like it should be an easy voucher for midterm popularity, the Taliban will be ready to provide some bloody and embarrassing headlines if the operation is handled badly. If the infamous ‘Green on Blue’ attacks by disgruntled members of the Afghan National Army continue, the withdrawal date may have to be delayed even further, to the president’s dismay.
Even if the Afghan exit is executed without fail, the next administration may find itself defined by its relationship with the country next-door, Iran. Like Afghanistan both candidates are promising the same coarse of action, that they will do whatever it takes to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons and both it seems, will continue to enforce crippling sanctions on the country. The difference lies in the tone of the rhetoric. While Obama has remained cautious, Romney has thrown his full support behind Benjamin Netanyahu and even gone as far as to attack the president for not visiting Israel. With Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s time in office coming to an end next year, the situation is difficult to predict, but if Iran were to block the straight of Hormuz it would take a skilled statesman to stop the situation for escalating out of control. So far Romney has proved to be a less then perfect diplomat and still has a long way to go towards being trusted with key foreign policy decisions.
However, despite of all these world-altering dilemmas, 2013’s commander in chief will already know exactly how his presidency will be judged and that is by the state of American economy. Since taking office, Obama has overseen a frustratingly slow rate of growth. In fact it has been so slow that historians will likely remember this recession, not for its depth, but for its sheer duration. The president, be it Barack or Mitt, will be expected to grow the economy and create millions of jobs while wresting with a massive budget deficit. In Europe, austerity has proved to be not only ineffective but to exacerbate the dire economic quagmire. However, because of Americans overwhelming national debt, Congress will be reluctant to allow the president to pay for investment by borrowing more money. So whoever loses this race, if not tomorrow then eventually, will be able to take solace in the face that their life will be a lot easier as a result.