October 31, 2000

Panel Discusses Foreign Policies of Gore, Bush

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Voters have one less issue to focus on in their decision between the major party presidential candidates next week. According to three professors in a panel discussion last night in McGraw Hall, both Vice President Al Gore and Gov. George W. Bush are almost identical in terms of foreign policy.

The discussion panel, titled, “International Perspectives on the U.S. Presidential Election,” was sponsored by the International Relations concentration of the government department.

The panelists discussed how people outside the United States view our upcoming presidential election and the differences that exist between the candidates. The panel consisted of Prof. Theodore J. Lowi, government, Prof. Peter Katzenstein, government, and Prof. Maria Cook, collective bargaining.

Each of the professors expressed that foreign policy has never been a major issue in presidential elections.

Cook, who specializes in issues regarding Latin American and U.S.-Mexican border issues, stated that both candidates are supportive of free trade and open relations in North America. However, both also feel certain restrictions are essential to our nation’s best interest.

“Despite their wishes for open relations in the western hemisphere, both Bush and Gore have come out strongly against normalizing relations with Cuba, until it becomes a democracy. That is to say, until Fidel Castro is out of power,” Cook said.

Cook began her description of the candidates by quoting Cuban President Fidel Castro, “Gore and Bush are the most boring and insipid candidates in American history. I do not like either of them.”

Katzenstein, who has recently focused his research on comparisons of Asian and European regionalism, expressed that Americans do not know a lot about foreign policy and therefore cannot use that as criteria for electing a president.

“Both Democrats and Republicans talk in very muffled voices about foreign policy because people are not clear about this topic.” Katzenstein said.

The reason for this, according to Katzenstein, is that most Americans have a difficult time understanding these issues.

Katzenstein said, “It all depends on what America needs. In 1992, the United States wanted to rebuild our nation. George Bush was good on foreign policy, but after the Cold War, we didn’t have much of a need for foreign policy. The people felt that this guy from Arkansas would help us rebuild our nation,” Katzenstein added.

Lowi entitled his portion of the discussion, “It is not who wins, stupid, but what wins.” He mentioned that although the two candidates are “too close for comfort” on foreign policy positions, there are a few issues that should be taken into account. “Gore is stronger on environmental issues and human rights matters, while Bush is less willing to intervene in situations of prevention.”

Lowi concluded by saying, “the most important issues in terms of foreign policy [this election] are police and social control.”

“Concerns about foreign policy usually do not figure prominently in U.S. voters’ decisions,” said Prof. Matthew Evangelista, government, who planned the event.

“But given the predominant role played by the United States in the world, and especially given the concern that young people have expressed about processes of economic globalization, it wouldn’t be surprising if Cornell students, for example, took into account how their votes might influence other countries,” Evangelista said.

The discussion triggered several students to reflect on their views of foreign policy in terms of politics.

Jaime Winkelman ’03 said, “on most issues, the candidates try to be polar opposites. On foreign policy, the candidates will probably just do what is in the nation’s best interest.”

Andrew Phillips grad said he learned from the lecture, “It is the economy, stupid. The economy is basically internally focused and there are not a lot of votes to be earned from international relations.”

Archived article by Seth Harris