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New York Times: Precise Foreign Policy Intentions Can Be Tough to Gauge

Author: Peter Baker, The New York Times
August 29, 2012

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Peter Baker discusses the relationship between what presidential candidates say on the campaign trail and what they do once elected and what this relationship indicates about U.S. foreign policy if Mitt Romney wins the presidential election in November.

Bill Clinton said he would crack down on China. George W. Bush said he would stay away from nation building. Barack Obama said he would restore civil liberties in the war on terror and sit down with rogue leaders.

In foreign policy, the relationship between what presidential candidates say on the campaign trail and what they do once elected can be tenuous. If Mitt Romney wins in November, he may be in this respect no different from the men who preceded him, despite his tough talk on China, Iran and Russia.

But if recent presidents have kept more of their predecessor's foreign policy than expected, Mr. Romney may also put his own stamp on international affairs in ways both surprising and not. If his policy prescriptions at this point do not vary radically from Mr. Obama's — they both want to exit Afghanistan by 2014 — his outlook and emphasis, and the pressures that will bear on him, may push him in different directions.

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