As UM prepares to host the first 2004 Presidential Debate, debate over which candidate is best for the country is flourishing on campus. Since the debate at the University will be focusing on foreign policy, issues such as Iraq and the War on Terror will inevitably surface as students, faculty, and eventually the presidential candidates exchange points of view.
Although foreign policy encompasses several countries and regions, including Russia, North Korea and the Israeli Palestinian conflict, Iraq and the War on Terror are the prevalent topics due to the focus both campaigns have given to these issues.
Students, for the most part, think of foreign policy issues as less important than domestic policy issues; domestic policy seems to have a greater effect on what many students consider their home country.
However, the students who do feel strongly about foreign affairs make it clear who they think is the better candidate.
“I believe that Kerry would be more proficient in building alliances instead of tearing down walls” Cassandra Avenatti, junior, said.
Ryan Mason, freshman, differs in opinion.
“[Bush] puts America first,” Mason said. “I don’t agree with the Iraq war, but he was acting on the intelligence that he had, so I don’t fault him for it.”
Mason nevertheless plans to vote for Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian candidate. Kristen Feldman, sophomore, isn’t quite sure either way.
“I don’t really like Bush’s handling of foreign policy,” Feldman said. “But I don’t know what to say about Kerry because he hasn’t said anything.”
International students also offer diverse opinions.
Nitin Aggarwal, a sophomore from Tanzania, thinks Kerry is the better choice.
“Bush really needs to learn how to formulate foreign policy-he shouldn’t isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world,” Aggarwal said. “We need global cooperation. That’s why I’d vote Kerry if I were an American citizen.”
Jaspinder Sachdev, a sophomore from India, offers some dissent.
“India and Pakistan are only starting to enjoy better relations because of the U.S.,” Sachdev said. “Bush has put pressure on [Pakistani President] Musharraf to crack down on terrorism, which helps both the U.S. and India.”
Knowledgeable faculty members are also voicing their opinions, and they’re also clear as to what stance they take.
Dr. Ira Sheskin, a professor of Geography, doesn’t believe it matters much who wins.
“John Kerry is trying to make himself look different,” Sheskin said. “But the reality is, no matter who gets into office, what we need to do in Iraq is clear – neither will pull the troops back, Kerry will do exactly what Bush will do, and we need to stay until the Iraqi government is fully set up.”
Political Science professor Dr. Louise Davidson-Schmich offered a European perspective.
“[Kerry] said multiple times he doesn’t want the U.S. to make decisions alone, and wants to consult with allies, which is what Europe wants,” Davidson-Schmich said. “For the sake of the world, it’s best that we work together.”
The candidates haven’t emphasized foreign policy as much as other issues in their campaigns. As far as Iraq is concerned, they lay down what they believe should be done, but lack specifics.
When it comes to North Korea, both candidates have merely denounced North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il’s nuclear weapons program; neither presents a plan on how to deal with it, and Ralph Nader barely even mentions it.
What remains to be seen is who can convince the student body, and voters in general, that he is the better choice.
Jay Rooney can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.