Pretending for a moment that the nation witnessed candidates discuss foreign policy, let's examine the real missing piece: caring about the rest of the world. That Americans never have is illustrated by the career of the late Sen. William Fulbright (D-Ark).
Fulbright, he of the international exchange scholarships, held what today would be regarded as wildly liberal views -- for a senator. He came to be a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War and a voice of reason in favor of foreign aid. He opposed the Bay of Pigs intervention against Cuba, and was just as critical of President Johnson's offhand dispatch of troops to the Dominican Republic in 1965.
Less well known, Fulbright also voted (alone) against funding the investigative committee from which Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis) carried out the witch hunts that still bear his name, McCarthyism.
Yet guess what?
Fulbright also joined the Southern filibuster against two Civil Rights Acts (1957 and 1964) and voted against the 1965 Voting Rights Act. he wrote an impassioned "manifesto" against the Brown v. Board of Education ruling by the Supreme Court in 1954.
Why was Fulbright a schizophrenic, a racial segregationist domestically and internationally a liberal? Because the folks back home in Arkansas never cared about foreign policy, so long as they could keep their white bathrooms separate from the facilities for the "colored."
That same apathy and uncaring for the world is how two candidates managed to speak about United States foreign policy without mentioning the European economic crisis or Africa's continuing civil wars and failed states, with the inhumanity they cause, including recently a "rape epidemic" (since when does such a thing even exist?).
How come the only thing said about Latin America, by Romney, is that we can sell more American goods there (never mind the pauperization and corruption brought on by the insatiable U.S. consumption of illegal drugs grown there)? Oh, Romney is great at putting the squeeze abroad and humiliating even Britain. Great diplomacy, Mittens!
But he's not alone.
How come Obama couldn't come out and flatly contradict Romney regarding "dictating terms," precisely the reason millions hate our government and, by proxy, us? How come he couldn't say the Islamic world would never receive a visitor who came from or was in route to the hated cousins in Israel no matter how much sensitivity he expressed? How come he didn't tell Romney that his view of China's currency manipulation is badly out of date and that China has been experiencing an economic slowdown?
The answer is that Americans, the only people who get to vote for the effective President of the World, don't give a damn about anything happening in the next county, let alone Canada, Mexico or the other several hundred nations out there.
And them furriners are clever critters. They watch our TV and see our movies. They know most Americans think people in Buenos Aires speak Portuguese.
If we don't respect or even know anything about them, what makes us think we should lead them?
American leadership is really the result of a set of huge historical accidents, not the mythological know how, not kindness, not superiority of any kind. Perhaps it's time a leader showed us that.