from The Water's Edge

The World Next Week: Obama and Romney Debate, Netanyahu Visits the United States, the UN Talks Freedom of Speech, and Georgia Votes Amid Scandal

September 27, 2012

Jim Lehrer, seen here moderating the first 2008 presidential debate, will moderate next week's presidential debate at the University of Denver. (Chip Somodevilla/ courtesy Reuters)
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The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the first presidential debate; Israeli prime minister Netanyahu’s visit to the United States; freedom of speech; and Georgia’s parliamentary elections.


The highlights:

  • The topic of next Wednesday’s presidential debate at the University of Denver is the economy and domestic issues. Mitt Romney will likely stress his overarching theme that America cannot afford another four years of Barack Obama; the president will counter by arguing that America cannot afford to go back to the failed policies of the past. Romney is certainly under pressure to “win” the debate. Polls out this week show him falling behind in the critical battleground states of Florida and Ohio; no GOP president has ever won the White House without also winning Ohio. So if Romney does not fare well in Denver, GOP-leaning Super PACs might shift their money away from the former Massachusetts governor and toward Republicans facing tough House and Senate races.
  • President Obama and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu used their speeches to the UN General Assembly this week to warn against the dangers posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. Meanwhile, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used his address to accuse Israel of warmongering against Iran. Speculation continues as to whether Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear facilities before the U.S. elections on November 6 and whether Iranian leaders believe that an Israeli attack could help break Iran’s international isolation.
  • President Obama used his address to the General Assembly to offer a spirited defense of the American conception of freedom of speech. The speech played well to American ears, but it did not receive universal acclaim. The idea that even offensive speech should be protected is unthinkable in many parts of the world, and many Muslim-majority countries are lobbying the UN for anti-blasphemy laws. Even many Western governments restrict some forms of speech. These different conceptions of what is acceptable speech are likely to continue to clash in a globalized and digitalized world.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is 1.3 percent. My Figure of the Week is Shinzo Abe. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

Obama and Romney face off in the first presidential debate. The New York Times provides poll results showing show that Obama is widening his lead in battleground states. Politico thinks that the Denver debate is “do-or-die” for Romney. The LA Times predicts that Obama will get less practice than Romney for the debates and reports what to expect from the first debate.  ABC writes that Paul Ryan has confidence that Romney will best Obama in the debates.  The Commission on Presidential Debates provides the topics for the first debate and the full presidential debate schedule.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits United States. Reuters writes that Netanyahu continues to push Obama to set a red line for Iran and that Netanyahu drew an actual red line on a picture of a bomb during his UNGA speech.  Politicker reports that Netanyahu will meet with New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The UN debates Freedom of Speech. The New York Times reports on the calls by the presidents of Egypt and Yemen for curbs on free speech. Colum Lynch reviews the push for anti-blasphemy laws. The Miami Herald reports on a Coptic Christian sentenced to six years in an Egyptian prison for blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed.

Georgia holds parliamentary elections. Foreign Policy writes that the recent prisoner abuse scandal will be a significant challenge for Georgia’s ruling party before parliamentary elections on October 1. The Daily Beast notes that this is a prime opportunity for the opposition party to take control of the government. Reuters reports that Russia has criticized the current government on its inability to defend human rights.