Five countries that will be mentioned during tonight’s debate

October 22, 2012

By Achy Obejas

1. Libya

Duh. Mitt Romney’s had two chances to go at President Barack Obama on this issue, where there’s enough haze for him to make some hay, but has blown both. Which means that if there’s one issue, one question, that the Romney debate prep team has been hammering, it’s this one. I know everybody was blown away by Obama’s answer last time, but he missed an opportunity to poke back at Republicans, and particularly at Romney’s VP choice Paul Ryan, all of whom voted against more funding for embassy security, not just in Libya, but all over the world. C’mon.

2. Iran

Iran suddenly says it’s willing to talk, but is just waiting for the elections to know who the chat will be with. Obama says nothing’s new on our end and, of course, we talk. Romney says Obama’s weak, weak, weak, but can’t seem to say what he’d do different. If Obama doesn’t turn this around and make it seem like Romney wants to bomb Tehran tomorrow, it’ll be another missed opportunity -- especially to bring back women voters, who are particularly anti-war.

3. Israel

The men don’t differ much on actual Israel policy, except for the fact that Romney has pretty much said he’ll back Israel on a unilateral strike against Iran if Israel feels threatened. This one isn’t actually a Middle East concern -- this is all about Florida, where Romney looks poised to win, leading in most polls. He’s hoping seniors in Florida forget his Medicare policies and vote ethno-religiously.

4. Cuba

The biggest strawman in American politics, Cuba was mentioned a handful of times at the GOP convention and will come back for two reasons: one, rumors were hot all last week that Fidel Castro was on ice and, two, Florida. Never mind that the pendulum is swinging away from hard right politics in the Cuban-American community as those who were born and/or raised in the U.S. come of age. And never mind that the Latino group that has the power to swing the state is now the Puerto Ricans in Orange and Osceola counties. Never mind, too, that most Puerto Ricans don’t give a twit about a Cuba and that the only real question is whether they’re going to show up at the polls -- in Florida, Puerto Ricans have numbers, even on registration, but blow it on attendance -- but nobody can keep themselves, it seems, from playing the useless Cuba card.

5. China

Romney will continue to accuse the Chinese of being currency manipulators (they are) but offer no plan. And Obama, with an opportunity here to make Romney squirm about the Chinese factory with virtual slave women workers that Bain may or may not have bought while Romney was at the helm, will probably not mention it. But he should.