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International “Pander-Ball”!

What is it with Mitt Romney?!  Mr. Gaff-man continues to put his foot in his mouth, this week in England and Israel!  Actually, what is more curious and even more serious than any of his earlier  “flip-floppyi-ness” and his numerous  “Etch-A-Sketch” moments, is his dependence on a simple-minded version of Bush-era foreign policy, even though he ardently denies dependency on it.  Not surprisingly, the Bushes have declined to attend the upcoming Republican Convention.   Not surprising since Romney and many far right Republicans want to separate themselves from the Bush years. The now unpopular Dick Chaney will also not be at the convention in Tampa.

None-the-less, Romney does nothing but regurgitate the Bush hawkish foreign policy talking-points  along side the old Republican “trickle down” economic “chestnuts” dating from the time of Ronald Reagan!  Romney claims that Obama has ignored old allies (England, Israel, and Poland) while virtually apologizing to the likes of Russia and Iran.  Romney is returning to the so-called “moral certainty” of the old Bush view of the world: a black and white classification of allies and enemies.  Russia is once again the “evil empire,” China is a nefarious “currency manipulator,” and Israel can attack Iran with Romney’s blessing!   Instead of “Forward,” Romney seems to shout  “Backwards” even while claiming that his policies are new in a world that has changed radically.

Obama does not lack a moral compass.  He is actually a foreign policy realist and understands that world peace is strengthened by engagement with all countries  instead of dividing the world into good and evil countries.  In a world that is coming more complicated as it shrinks due to instant communications and the Internet, we don’t need an overly simplistic foreign policy that stereotypes countries and cultures.

Israel is also the epicenter of Evangelical and Mormon shared hopes for a coming apocalypse.  Although their theologies differ in many respects, they share a deep hope in the coming of the  “eschaton” (the “end of days“) and both recognize the role of Jerusalem in the final events.  I wonder if the Republican militaristic attitude towards Israel’s relationship with Iran is ultimately rooted in what they consider to be an inevitable, if not fated, conflict?  I would prefer a greater separation of state policy and church doctrine.

Chris Matthews on Hardball tonight described Romney as a “Pander-Ball” player on every front, even foreign policy.   He appears to be impersonal and arrogant just telling groups of people what they want to hear for the sake of looking presidential in photo-opts and for the sake of encouraging contributions to his campaign.  Indeed, Romney went to Israel to solicit donations from rich Jewish Americans,who live in Israel, and Evangelical Christians at home.  But cynically telling people what they want to hear, which he constantly does,  is incredibly dangerous when commenting on very delicate situations oversees.  A world-leader needs to know and acknowledge both sides, or the many sides, of incredibly complicated situations.  Where is his common sense?  Where is his education!?  Can this man be the U.S. Commander-in-Chief and leader of the Free World?  He is obviously not schooled well in foreign policy.

Romney was also critical of President Obama’s policies while in Israel,  which is a breach of campaigning etiquette.   A prominent figure such as Romney should not criticize the president on foreign policy while traveling oversees. However, in round-about ways and, sometimes, in direct ways he clearly expressed his disapproval:

  • Romney referred to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. All national embassies are located in Tel Aviv due to the international conflict over the status of  Jerusalem in 1949 (implies that the U.S. doesn’t fully recognize Israel by not clearly stating that  Jerusalem is the capital).
  • He  stated that “standing by Israel does not mean with military and intelligence cooperation alone. We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel, voice their criticisms” (implying that all of Obama’s efforts for Israel and Middle Eastern peace are insufficient).
  • He said he so very much loved Israel (implying that Obama doesn’t)

What Romney said that stirred everyone’s sticks was:

Culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city (Jerusalem) and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things. . .As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality.”

Romney’s culture comment drew swift criticism. Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority responded:

It is a racist statement, and this man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation. It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people.”

Today John McCain tried to amend Romney’s thoughtless comments. McCain tried to sweep away the racial implications by revising what Romney really meant to say ~  that the economic difference between Israel and Palestine is due to differences in political leadership (government) and not due to cultural differences.  McCain’s explanation emphasizes that Israel is a democracy and Palestine isn’t.  Is this, unfortunately, a stereotyping  of Israel as “good” since it is a democracy and Palestine as “bad” since it isn’t?

The real reasons for economic disparity between Israel and Palestine are probably due to Palestine not having control of its own boarders, which severely restricts its trade, and the burden of perpetual conflict whether political or military in nature.  But clearly, Romney didn’t speak about the political  differences between two “governments.”  He based his comments on “culture.”   His comments  imply that a good economy is the “sign of election” of superior culture.  Where is his diplomatic tact?

Romney also managed, in the process, to insult Mexico, an inferior culture due to its bad economy in comparison to ours.

Romney spokespeople tried to defend him saying that his comments were not an attempt to slight the Palestinians.  I wonder?   Romney has made similar economic analyses in his speeches here at home when comparing other countries to the United States.  Here is the arrogance I mentioned above.  Many Republicans think of American exceptionalism as our cultural superiority over the whole world and our right to declare our superiority, carry a big stick, and tell everyone what to do.  This mentality leads to “Ugly Americanism.”  We should not be loud, boorish, self-righteous, and nationalistic oversees with our allies or any country.  These are actually qualities that destroy our “exceptionalism” and are incredibly counter-productive!

Instead, like I have said many times in other posts on this blog, let us be a “light” to the world, let us be an exceptional model of democracy to the world, let us offer encouragement, financial aid, and education,  let us be generous, let us both collaborate with other nations in problem solving and also challenge those countries that have faltered in human rights. Let us use our tremendous power to stand up for what is right, not for what is expedient. Let us not squander our foreign policy capital.

If a strong economy is what makes a country superior . . . does personal wealth makes people superior?   Does money make “right“?  Has this become our  ethical compass?  Is the 1% better than the 99% because they have more financial security? . . .  And . . .  Republicans  have the audacity to accuse Obama of creating a class war!!

The policy of Mitt Romney concerning Israel and the Middle East centers on blasting Obama by falsely accusing him of being anti-Israel:

President Obama for too long has been in the grip of several illusions. One is that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the central problem in the region. This has been disproved repeatedly by events, most recently and most dramatically by the eruption of the Arab Spring. But it nonetheless led the administration to believe that distancing the United States from Israel was a smart move that would earn us credits in the Arab world and somehow bring peace closer.”  (See full policy at http://www.mittromney.com/issues/israel)

Romney says he would respect and support Israel’s right to militarily respond to Iran unilaterally.  Ironically, polls indicate that the majority of Israelis do not support a unilateral attack on Iranian nuclear facilities  since they would have to live with the dire consequences of such a move.

The governor believes that at this point the only thing that could focus and force the minds of the Iranian leadership on ending their nuclear weapons, their path to a nuclear weapons capability, is the belief that the alternative is far worse,” said Dan Senor, Romney’s chief Mideast adviser.

In effect, Romney is more hawkish than the Israeli people.

As Romney was leaving Israel to visit Poland, two important Israeli leaders praised President Obama:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak: “I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing, in regard to our security, more than anything that I can remember in the past. … In terms of the support for our security, the cooperation of our intelligence, the sharing of sorts in a very open way even when there are differences.”

President Shimon Peres: “When I look at the record of President Obama concerning the major issues, security, I think it’s a highly satisfactory record, from an Israeli point of view.”

These are very nice comments even in light of the past stress between the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu.   On July 27th, President Obama signed the “United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012” bill that had been passed in Congress the week before.  It approves $70 million in funding for Israel’s short-range rocket shield known as “Iron Dome.” 

For more details about the provisions in the above bill and other measures that President Obama has taken to strength sanctions against Iran (i.e. Obama’s leadership leading to the passage of the  United Nations Security Council resolution 1929, and, the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, and, two new Executive Orders in April 2012 which will further isolate Iran as long as it refuses to comply with its international obligations), see the White House website: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/07/27/fact-sheet-advancing-israels-security-and-supporting-pea

Romney persists in accusing Obama of being anti-Semitic and that he wants to de-legitimize Israel as a country.  Such accusation are extremist and pandering to the far right, who falsely claim that Obama is a Muslim  and a socialist, who doesn’t understand the U.S. since he wasn’t born in the U. S., etc, etc, ad nauseum!

The policy of Barack Obama concerning Israel and the Middle East is:

The United States is committed to a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in the Middle East, including two states for two peoples – Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people – each enjoying self-determination,  mutual recognition, and peace.  President Obama believes that a key component of achieving peace is maintaining the unshakeable U.S. commitment to Israel’s security. He has also said that the core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties. That is why the President stated publicly principles on territory and security that can provide a foundation for an agreement to end the conflict and resolve all claims.”

For more information about President Obama’s Israel and Middle East policies see:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/foreign-policy.

I fear to think what kind of comments Mitt Romney would make during a visit to China!! Let’s hope we never know.

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