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Foreign affairs showing up on voters’ radar

(The Weekly Wrap)

September 17, 2012
By Sam Shawver - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

Recent developments in the Middle East, like last week's attack that killed four Americans in Libya, including the U.S. ambassador, and other unrest in the Middle East, are a new dimension to November's presidential election.

Those incidents serve to remind voters that U.S. presidents need experience in foreign-as well as domestic-affairs.

"I think it's important because if the world views our leaders as weakening, it's a reflection on all of us," said Mark Miller, 58, of Athens.

He noted Republican challenger Mitt Romney doesn't have a strong background in international relations. but added that Democratic incumbent Barack Obama doesn't seem to pay adequate attention to overseas issues.

"I'm really not an Obama fan," Miller said.

But he said whoever is elected in November should be able to keep an eye on both foreign and domestic affairs.

"There has to be a balance," he said. "We have children starving here in our country, so we can't focus all of our attention on the Middle East."

Romney's lack of foreign policy experience is considered a drawback by some voters, and he's reportedly been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for accusing Obama of apologizing for America immediately following the embassy attack in Libya-before it was learned that the ambassador and three others had been killed.

"I think Romney spoke a little too quick," said Andy Emerick, 53, of Marietta.

"I believe Obama's doing a good job. When you're dealing with the world you have to have some experience with foreign people, and I would say Obama has gained that experience," he said. "But it's a tough job."

Asked if domestic concerns should take precedence over foreign issues, Emerick said both are important.

"Personally I think our economy is important, but the rest of the world is so close anymore that we can't ignore it," he said.

Emerick noted that local fuel prices can be immediately impacted by events that occur overseas.

"No one can change the world, but our leaders should have some experience in foreign affairs," he said. "I voted for Obama before, and I plan to vote for him again."

Mike Frazier, 66, of Cleveland, agreed.

"I think the people in office now have that (foreign affairs) background," Frazier said. "And we have an assertive president, but the Republicans have blocked so much of what he would like to do."

He said Obama is doing the best he can, and Romney's comments following last week's attack in Libya were uncalled for.

"I don't think he should be saying anything as a candidate," Frazier said. "He's basically interfering with the job of a sitting president."

Domestic issues like the economy also deserve some focus, Frazier said.

"It is a balancing act. But you have to take care of us first," he said. "We've helped support and rebuild other countries while our own infrastructure is going downhill."

According to a recent Associated Press report, Romney has staked his entire campaign on improving jobs and the economy. But the sudden focus on foreign policy brought about by last week's incident in Libya and continuing concerns in areas like Egypt and the Sudan could put a dent in Romney's strategy.

It's unclear how long this round of Middle East unrest will last and Romney's aides concede the former businessman may struggle to gain a political advantage should anti-American violence continue deep into the fall, the AP reported.

Kirsten Hall, 31, and her husband, Andrew 25, both of Marietta, said the economy is still a big issue for the presidential campaign.

"I think the economy's a more important issue for me," Kirsten said. "I'm still paying off college loans. And I don't know why this country is investing so much in fighting religious wars in other countries that will never end."

Andrew agreed.

"I would like to see more concentration on fixing the economy," he said. "I agree with some of Obama's ideas, and disagree with others, but I think he should get another four years in office."

Both of the Halls believe the recent unrest in the Middle East will be on voters' minds at the polls in November.

"They may not be able to change a lot in four years, but presidential candidates should have some kind of foreign relations background," Kirsten said. "I think that will definitely affect the way people vote now."



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