US elections: The issues

2012-11-01 15:16
US President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (File, AP)

US President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (File, AP)

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Washington - Here are the positions of President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney on several key issues in the 6 November election:

Domestic Policy:

Economy


Romney says Obama has failed to kickstart the US economy since the financial crisis, and pledges to be an "agent of change" to restore the country's economic health. He wants to create millions of jobs by boosting growth through lower taxes, deregulation, open markets and US oil and gas exploration. He has proposed cutting income tax rates by 20%, eliminating tax on investment income, and slashing the corporate tax rate.

Obama has defended his efforts to turn around the US economy, highlighting his bailout of the auto industry. He has pledged to reduce the US deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years and implement the so-called "Buffett Rule", applying a minimum tax rate of 30% on individuals making more than $1m a year. He also wants to create one million manufacturing jobs by 2016.

Abortion and contraception

Romney opposes "Roe v Wade", the 1973 decision by the US Supreme Court that upholds a woman's right to an abortion. He supports a ban on abortion except in cases of rape, incest or risk to the life or health of the mother. He wants an end to federal subsidies of family planning centres. Romney has also criticised Obama's healthcare reform law because it compelled employers, including religious institutions, to cover contraception costs for employees.

Barack Obama, who supports access to abortion, believes that "a woman's healthcare choices are personal decisions, are best made with her doctor - without interference from politicians".

Gay rights

Romney is opposed to same-sex marriage and civil unions, and supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. He opposed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", which banned openly gay service members from serving in the military, but announced he would not seek a return to the policy.

Obama - who repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" - was the first US president to back the rights of homosexuals to marry. He said it was his personal belief, however, and noted that the decision to legalise gay marriage would be a matter left up to each individual state.

Immigration

Romney has said he hopes illegal immigrants will "self-deport" themselves out of the United States, if work and living conditions are made sufficiently inhospitable for them. He has criticised long-stalled legislation in the US Congress that would grant rights to some undocumented immigrants. He has accused Obama of not doing enough to curb the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.

Obama is a supporter of Congress' stalled "Dream Act" legislation that would halt the deportation of children of undocumented immigrants. In June, he announced measures that put into force many of the provisions of that bill, granting young illegal immigrants two-year residency and work permits as long as they fulfil certain conditions, including having no criminal record.

Gun control

Romney strictly interprets the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which enshrines the right of Americans to bear arms. He opposes any new federal legislation restricting the purchase of firearms, and has received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun-rights lobby.

Obama has pledged to respect the Second Amendment, but supports strengthening background checks on gun purchasers. He hopes to tighten curbs on the sale to the general public of the sort of automatic firearms that have been used in most of the most deadly mass shootings in the United States. Liberals say he has not done enough on this issue.

Drug legalisation

Romney opposed the legalisation of cannabis for federal medical reasons, which has occurred in several states including California.

Obama, like his Republican rival, is opposed to decriminalising marijuana. The president has ordered federal agencies not to intervene against "medical" marijuana dispensaries, but managers have since complained of renewed repression.

Foreign Policy:

Iraq

Romney, in a major foreign policy speech during the campaign, criticised Obama for failing to secure Iraqi agreement for a residual US troop presence after the withdrawal of US forces last year.

Obama, who in 2008 campaigned on a vow to end the Iraq War, has painted the troop pullout as a foreign policy victory that put to an end "the failed policies of the past".

Iran

Romney is demanding tougher sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, saying that under Obama, Tehran has moved closer than ever to getting a nuclear weapon.

Obama insists that sanctions imposed by the international community on Iran to slow its nuclear drive have been the toughest possible, and should be given sufficient time to take effect before anyone resorts to military force. But he has also has vowed that Iran will not succeed in getting a nuclear weapon on his watch.

Russia


Romney earlier this year called Russia America's "number one geopolitical foe", and vowed to show more "backbone" in his dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin than he says Obama has.

Obama has mocked Romney's ideas as dated. "Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s," he said at a debate last month.

China


Romney has vowed to press China harder on trade and currency issues, and brand Beijing a currency manipulator from "day one" of his presidency - a move which would enable the United States to impose harsh retaliatory penalties on Chinese goods and has led some analysts to warn of a trade war.

The Obama administration has refrained from such a move, saying it could unnecessarily set off tensions between the world's two leading economies. Senior Obama aides say the president hopes that China and the United States develop as "partners rather than enemies".

Israel

Romney accuses Obama of neglecting Israel and mismanaging relations with the close American ally, and has claimed that recent turmoil elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa - including the violence in Syria and the deadly attack on a US consulate in Libya - is proof that Obama's policy in the region is "unravelling before our very eyes".

Obama insists that he has treated Israel as "a true friend. It is our greatest ally in the region. And if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel. I've made that clear throughout my presidency". Elsewhere in the region, he has trumpeted US successes during his administration in putting Islamic extremists under pressure, although continued vigilance is needed.

Afghanistan

At a debate last month on foreign policy, Romney endorsed Obama's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, voiced support for US drone strikes on terror targets and congratulated him on hunting down and killing al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in neighbouring Pakistan. But he criticised Obama for announcing the 2014 deadline by which he plans to pull out US troops, saying it gave the enemy too much information.

Obama, aware that Americans are war-weary after a decade in Afghanistan, has steadfastly held to his decision on removing US troops by 2014. He says Bin Laden's killing - one of the crowning foreign policy triumphs of his presidency - is a symbol that he is a firm and tough-minded leader in dealing with Islamic extremism.



- View the US Election Poll Prediction map

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  barack obama  |  mitt romney  |  us  |  iraq  |  israel  |  afghanistan  |  china  |  iran  |  russia  |  gay rights  |  us elections 2012  |  middle east peace  |  iran nuclear programme
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