WASHINGTON -- in Town Halls, Television Interviews and Social Media Posts, Democratic Presidential Candidates Are Touting Their Support for "Medicare-for-All," Higher Taxes on the Wealthy and a War on Climate Change. but Foreign Policy, One of the Chief Responsibilities of a President, Is Largely Taking a Back Seat on the Campaign Trail [Derived Headline]

Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 23, 2019 | Go to article overview

WASHINGTON -- in Town Halls, Television Interviews and Social Media Posts, Democratic Presidential Candidates Are Touting Their Support for "Medicare-for-All," Higher Taxes on the Wealthy and a War on Climate Change. but Foreign Policy, One of the Chief Responsibilities of a President, Is Largely Taking a Back Seat on the Campaign Trail [Derived Headline]


WASHINGTON -- In town halls, television interviews and social media posts, Democratic presidential candidates are touting their support for "Medicare-for-all," higher taxes on the wealthy and a war on climate change. But foreign policy, one of the chief responsibilities of a president, is largely taking a back seat on the campaign trail.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is seizing on that opening to position himself as the sole global policy expert in a crowded Democratic field if he decides to run for president.

In a series of speeches over the past month, Biden portrayed himself as an authoritative counterweight to President Donald Trump's isolationist and nationalistic impulses. Last week, he told an audience in Germany that his vision of America "stands up to the aggression of dictators." The problems of the 21st century, he later said at the University of Pennsylvania, can't be solved "without there being cooperation." His advisers have endorsed his foreign policy credentials to key political operatives and allies in early-voting states.

The moves reflect the vulnerabilities Biden, a 76-year-old firmly aligned with the Democratic establishment, could exploit in a crowded primary with rivals who are decades younger and working overtime to appeal to the party's liberal base. In that kind of race, Biden could carve out space as a battle-tested statesman with the experience to stabilize America's role in the world.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who has already pledged to support Biden over home-state colleague Kamala Harris, recently summed up his advantage: "Huge international experience," she told reporters. "And a knowledge that's really unparalleled in terms of what's happening in the world."

Scott Mulhauser, Biden's former deputy chief of staff, said focusing on foreign policy and national security "is a smart way to draw distinctions" in the primary field.

But running on foreign policy could carry risks. Although the election season is in its infancy and a crisis could shuffle priorities, it's not clear that foreign policy is a top issue on voters' minds.

AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of the American electorate, found that 5 percent of 2018 midterm voters said foreign policy was the top issue facing the country. That falls well behind the percentage saying health care (26 percent), immigration (23 percent) or the economy (18 percent) topped their list.

Trump's foreign policy has alarmed longtime allies and spurred criticism at home. A January AP-NORC survey found that 35 percent of Americans approve of the president on foreign policy, while 63 percent disapprove. Trump's slated second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next week will provide a fresh opportunity for the president to rebound or fall further, as well as for his Democratic would-be opponents to draw sharp contrasts with his self-proclaimed "America First" diplomacy.

But that doesn't mean that Democrats, who are sorting through the most diverse and wide-open primary field in a generation, will warm to a Biden campaign focused on foreign policy. …

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WASHINGTON -- in Town Halls, Television Interviews and Social Media Posts, Democratic Presidential Candidates Are Touting Their Support for "Medicare-for-All," Higher Taxes on the Wealthy and a War on Climate Change. but Foreign Policy, One of the Chief Responsibilities of a President, Is Largely Taking a Back Seat on the Campaign Trail [Derived Headline]
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