The town hall debate held in Long Island on Tuesday 16th October has been judged a slight Obama victory by most polls. Certainly, the President was considerably more forceful and combative than he was at the first debate two weeks before. He challenged Governor Romney repeatedly on all areas of policy, and on more than one occasion seemed to come out on top in the argument. There was, however, one moment of despicable hypocrisy by President Obama. His comments regarding Governor Romney’s personal investments in China.
All debates include some misrepresentation, half-truths and some degree of double-standards. It is all part of the political arena, quite understandable and not entirely without worth. That said, when these kinds of attacks cross the line, they can swiftly demean the political process to the point of irrelevance. On Tuesday evening, that is exactly what President Obama did.
The focus of this article is not on the general fact that Obama seems to disapprove of Governor Romney having foreign investments (though it appears he does), but the specific charge that Governor Romney invests ‘in companies that are building surveillance equipment for China to spy on its own folks’. Thus the charge is that Romney is personally making financial gain out of the totalitarian regime in China.
The charge is both transparently contrived and, perhaps more importantly, utterly hypocritical.
Firstly, the line came off as so rehearsed as to be almost painful. Obama has for a long time used the word ‘folks‘ to try and make himself seem more down-to-earth, and understanding of working class Americans. It isn’t fooling anyone. Has everyone forgotten Obama’s comments about people clinging to ‘guns or religion, or antipathy towards other people’ across the Midwest as a coping mechanism for economic failure? Which do you think is the real Obama? The one who is on the side of the ’folks’ or the one who thinks small-town America is just ‘bitter’?
Secondly, let us say we accept the legitimacy of the attack. Assume for a moment that the company in question that Romney has an interest in is absolutely integral to the political domination of the Chinese people. Even if that is the case, Obama is nonetheless being hugely hypocritical.
What has been the Obama Administration policy on China since coming to power? Have there been stands on principle against human rights abuses by the Chinese government? Has Obama called for free elections, freedom of religion or the release of political prisoners? Has his administration taken on Chinese aggression in the Asia-Pacific region, or their shameless support for North Korea?
Of course not.
Obama has done absolutely nothing to take on China and their atrocious human rights record. Secretary Clinton was directed to take a soft-stance during her visits, while the President himself has repeatedly dodged questions on this subject. Furthermore, to Obama, it appears that China is not ideologically opposed to American values. There have been no speeches about the urgent need for reform in China, or denunciations of that political regime. Clearly, the President does not have a fundamental objection to trading or cooperating with China. That is of course his right, but it has implications.
If the President does not see a need to take a moral stand against the oppression of the Chinese people in his capacity as the most powerful person in the world, and the official representative of the American people, then how can he reasonably criticise the work of this company that Governor Romney has an interest in? According to the Obama administration, there is no reason why the company should have moral qualms, otherwise surely we would have clear denunciations of the censorship and political repression that is inherent to the Chinese political system from the US government.
It appears that the President has remembered the political repression in China just in time for the election. That said, he does not seem to be proposing to do anything about it, just to criticise Governor Romney’s investment portfolio.
There’s no law against hypocrisy in politics, nor cynicism. There is a moral expectation on leaders, however, to retain principle in their behaviour, and be consistent in what they believe and how they act as a result. President Obama in his criticism of Governor Romney in this regard is shameless. He’s taking the American people for a ride.
Don’t fall for it. Call a spade a spade. Obama is a hypocrite on China.
Then again, what else is new?