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U.S. Election Update: Candidates on Foreign Aid

January 31, 2008


Primary Update

Early primary contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Wyoming (R), Michigan, Maine (Republican Party only [R]), Florida, and South Carolina narrowed the candidate field. But following the 24-state vote on Super Tuesday (February 5, 2008), only Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Mike Gravel remain in the Democratic race, while John McCain, Mike Huckabee, and Ron Paul round out the Republican field. The next primaries or caucuses will be held on February 9 (Kansas-R, Louisiana, Nebraska-D, and Washington), February 10 (Maine-D), and February 12 (District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia). Upcoming polls will be critical, not only in consolidating convention seats, but also in gauging the national political mood—14.6 million Democrats headed to the polls on Super Tuesday, outpacing Republican foot-traffic, which reached only 9 million.<span style="\&quot;color:" black;\"="">

On Super Tuesday, Democratic Senators Clinton and Obama struck a delegate parity that is indicative of a horse race to the finish. According to (which reports delegate counts from the Associated Press, Washington Post, CBS News, and its own tallies), Senator Clinton won 1,060 delegates and Obama secured 981; The New York Times, which does not count unpledged delegates or “superdelegates,” reported lower tallies of 892 and 716 delegates, respectively. In the Republican race, Senator McCain swept the field, taking 720 delegates of the total 2,380 convention seats, reports Real Clear Politics. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who dropped out of the race on February 7, won 279 delegates and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, 197.

Election Update: Presidential Candidates on Foreign Aid*

Presidential candidates of both parties have put forward proposals that favor an invigorated, transparent, and engaged foreign policy, with foreign aid initiatives aimed at building democratic societies, alleviating poverty and disease, and increasing access to education in the developing world. The lone exception is Republican contender Congressman Ron Paul, who supports a non-interventionist foreign policy and the elimination of foreign aid to all nations.

The role of foreign assistance envisioned by Senator Obama is one that will strengthen “the pillars of a just society” by helping to build “accountable institutions that deliver service and opportunity” in countries threatened by conflict and poverty. Arguing that weak states and poor societies are ideal breeding grounds for terrorism and disease, Obama frames the issue of foreign aid as a national security interest that requires a dramatic and multinational approach to alleviating global poverty. To this end, Obama proposes doubling the United States’ annual investment in foreign assistance to $50 billion by 2012, improving on a 20-year trend that he argues has merely kept pace with inflation. Importantly, Obama emphasizes that trade deals, debt relief and foreign aid cannot represent “blank checks” and that assistance must be coupled with a call to reform corruption in recipient countries, “not in the spirit of a patron but in the spirit of a partner.” Moreover, Obama cites the important role of foreign aid in combating AIDS in the developing world. Pledging new funding for such initiatives, he proposes a $2 billion Global Education Fund aimed at eliminating the global education deficit, arguing that “we cannot hope to shape a world where opportunity outweighs danger unless we ensure that every child everywhere is taught to build and not destroy.”

In similar fashion, Senator Clinton makes education the linchpin of her foreign aid policy, maintaining that “education is the foundation of economic opportunity and should lie at the heart of America’s foreign assistance efforts.” Promising to push for passage of the Education for All Act, which would provide $10 billion to train teachers and build schools in the developing world over a five-year period, Clinton emphasizes that the program would “rigorously measure performance.” Addressing the fight against diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, Clinton also supports using government resources, in cooperation with the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and charity organizations, to reverse the spread of illness, provide clean water, reduce child and maternal mortality, and expand primary education. Citing growing global demand for energy, Clinton notes the importance of helping developing nations build “efficient and environmentally sustainable domestic energy infrastructures.”

One of the few presidential contenders to directly address foreign aid in the context of U.S.-Latin America affairs, Clinton argues that a policy of “vigorous engagement” is necessary to counter the consequences of the Bush administration’s “neglect” of the region. To this end, Clinton contends that the U.S. must support democracies in Brazil and Mexico; deepen economic and strategic cooperation with Chile; and continue to cooperate with allies in Colombia, Central America, and the Caribbean to combat drug trafficking, crime and insurgency. On a final point, Clinton welcomes a U.S. role in building sustainable development programs that “promote economic opportunity and reduce inequality for the citizens of Latin America.”

Senator McCain also addresses U.S. engagement in Latin America as a key element of developing sound policy around the issue of foreign aid. Calling Latin American countries “our natural partners,” McCain argues that the U.S. must enhance relations with Mexico to tackle undocumented immigration and combat drug cartels while fostering greater regional security by partnering with Brazil. He specifically notes Brazil’s leadership in the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti. If elected, McCain indicates that he would give democratic Latin American countries a “strong voice” in the League of Democracies, his model for a common organization of democratic states that would resemble Theodore Roosevelt’s vision of “like-minded nations working together for peace and liberty.” The organization, as envisioned by McCain, would work in places where the United Nations is unsuccessful on issues such as conflict resolution, disease treatment and prevention, environmental crises, and access to free markets.

Not focusing on Latin America, former Governor Huckabee frames his views on foreign aid in the context of U.S. assistance to the Middle East, and Pakistan in particular. Arguing that “American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up and reach out,” Huckabee stresses that more assistance should be committed to schools, food, medical aid, and other necessities that will improve citizens’ quality of life. In this vein, Huckabee also contends that the U.S. has “wasted money on counterterrorism that has not happened and spent precious little on projects to win hearts and minds.” Rather than utilizing active-duty forces for nation building, Huckabee argues that the U.S. must assemble the resources of governmental and non-governmental organizations to coordinate and implement essential nonmilitary functions like building schools, hospitals, roads, and legal and banking systems. On a final note, Huckabee maintains that the U.S. must not cut funding for programs that alleviate poverty.

*All source content and quotations drawn from candidates’ pieces in Foreign Affairs as well as a June 20, 2007, speech at the Florida Association of Broadcasters. Ron Paul outlines his policy on foreign assistance on his website and in an interview with the Muckracker Report.