McCain and Obama are economic isolationists
Both the candidates are Jekyll and Hyde, emphasizing working with allies on foreign policy, but playing the xenophobia card when it comes to economic exchange. Daniel Drezner in the National Interest:
What was odd was that this hopeful vision of America’s role in the world clashed badly with their rhetoric on the global economy. When talk turned to economics, the rest of the world was viewed as a scary, scary place.
Both candidates lamented the fact that the United States was borrowing so much from China (Obama added Saudi Arabia for good measure). Obama stressed that he wanted to offer incentives, “so that you can buy a fuel efficient car that’s made right here in the United States of America, not in Japan or South Korea.” McCain warned against returning to the protectionist policies of the Great Depression, but he also warned that some of the $700 billion trade deficit, “ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations.” The candidates fell over each other stressing the need to develop energy independence—which most energy specialists believe is little more than a pipe dream.
Some of these economic security concerns are valid, but the tone of the responses suggested a mismatch between the candidates’ vision of world politics and the world economy. They see the United States playing a positive role in security issues. On the global economy, however, the language was much more zero-sum.
Foreign economic policy is related to foreign policy—it’s hard to get cooperation on matters of high politics while claiming that other actors in the world are economic threats. Both candidates recognized the relationship between a strong military and a strong economy. It was surprising, then, that neither John McCain nor Barack Obama realize that economic isolationism will cost them goodwill in dealing with the trouble spots of the world.