Today at the Clinton Global Initiative, President Barack Obama spoke about the fight against human trafficking. Weighing his words – and signaling the importance of this issue – he began by saying that “human trafficking must be called by its true name — modern slavery.” Detailing what his administration – and previous ones – had accomplished to date, Obama’s remarks offered clear insights into policy initiatives, gave examples of how these policies translate into concrete steps to fight against human trafficking.
In sharp contrast with Romney, Obama did not deliver what felt like a campaign speech. Instead, he spoke about a specific issue, honing in on details and even humanizing the issue by referring to the plight of actual victims of human trafficking. And because this is the Clinton Global Initiative, the women he was referring to – who have become anti-trafficking advocates – were in the room, and were asked by Obama to stand and receive applause from the crowd. Adding substance to flourish, Obama also signed an executive order today to help combat human trafficking. The order requires “changes to government regulations that would prohibit contractors and subcontractors from using misleading recruitment practices, charging employees recruitment fees and destroying or confiscating workers’ passports.”
It is, in a way, not completely fair to compare Obama and Romney’s remarks to the Clinton Global Initiative. Obama has the benefit of having been POTUS for four years, and his track record on foreign aid policy is fairly uncontroversial. He can also point to many successful policy initiatives that are solving real-world problems. Further, Obama came to CGI just moments after delivering a very significant, political speech at the UN General Assembly. Romney does not have that kind of platform, and CGI was his venue to lay out a broad vision for foreign aid policy. Obama, on the other hand, does not need to burnish these credentials in front of the CGI audience. Politically, it was much more to his advantage to focus on a “motherhood and apple pie” issue, which even allowed him to give a nod to evangelical Christians in his remarks.