Presidential candidates are just not really allowed to acknowledge the limits of American power. They are expected to act as if they could fix every problem, everywhere. So that is why they feel compelled to act as if China’s internal economic issues are something America could fix or even prevent, if only the right person sat in the White House….
This overestimation of American power affects every element of the campaign foreign policy discussion, and explains why our campaign discourse often sounds so disconnected from reality. Presidents are expected to have easy-sounding solutions to just about any problem that crops up, and thus to assert that the White House can fix even things that are clearly outside of our control. The idea that a presidential candidate could come out and admit, “You know what, this is just outside of America’s control,” is politically unacceptable.
So the next time a candidate says something ridiculous about how he’s going to make the world better in three easy steps, feel free to roll your eyes — but bear in mind that they’re all doing this, at least in part, because it’s what a lot of voters want to hear.