Commentary Magazine


Topic: Romney

What Money Won’t Buy Even for Adelson

If you listen long enough to liberals complaining about the Citizens United decision, you’d think the country is being sold lock, stock and barrel to wealthy donors to presidential candidates. But the most publicized political contributor in the country isn’t getting much deference for the big bucks he’s throwing in the direction of Mitt Romney. Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has been pilloried from coast to coast by liberals who don’t like his willingness to put his money where his mouth is and fund Republicans intent on defeating Barack Obama. Adelson is doing nothing more than exercising his constitutional right to political speech, but even he can’t guarantee his candidate will do as he wishes. As Eli Lake and Dan Ephron report in the Daily Beast, Adelson asked Mitt Romney if he’ll pardon convicted spy Jonathan Pollard and move the U.S. embassy to Israel’s capital in Jerusalem and got little satisfaction.

Romney is rightly staying away from talking about pardoning Pollard. An election campaign pledge on that issue would have been inappropriate as it would have politicized a strong case for clemency that many serious people, including former CIA chief James Woolsey, feel is overdue. As for Jerusalem, while Adelson is dead right in calling out the foolishness of a several-decades-old policy, again, Romney is no fool. By saying he will do so in cooperation with the Israeli government, he is keeping his options open. But the real point here is not whether Adelson’s requests were wrong — they weren’t — but the idea that political donors can call in IOUs from candidates is bunk. While his millions will buy Adelson the ability to make his requests in person and, as his spokesman said, an invitation to the White House Chanukah party — they don’t ensure Romney will give him what he wants.

Read More

If you listen long enough to liberals complaining about the Citizens United decision, you’d think the country is being sold lock, stock and barrel to wealthy donors to presidential candidates. But the most publicized political contributor in the country isn’t getting much deference for the big bucks he’s throwing in the direction of Mitt Romney. Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has been pilloried from coast to coast by liberals who don’t like his willingness to put his money where his mouth is and fund Republicans intent on defeating Barack Obama. Adelson is doing nothing more than exercising his constitutional right to political speech, but even he can’t guarantee his candidate will do as he wishes. As Eli Lake and Dan Ephron report in the Daily Beast, Adelson asked Mitt Romney if he’ll pardon convicted spy Jonathan Pollard and move the U.S. embassy to Israel’s capital in Jerusalem and got little satisfaction.

Romney is rightly staying away from talking about pardoning Pollard. An election campaign pledge on that issue would have been inappropriate as it would have politicized a strong case for clemency that many serious people, including former CIA chief James Woolsey, feel is overdue. As for Jerusalem, while Adelson is dead right in calling out the foolishness of a several-decades-old policy, again, Romney is no fool. By saying he will do so in cooperation with the Israeli government, he is keeping his options open. But the real point here is not whether Adelson’s requests were wrong — they weren’t — but the idea that political donors can call in IOUs from candidates is bunk. While his millions will buy Adelson the ability to make his requests in person and, as his spokesman said, an invitation to the White House Chanukah party — they don’t ensure Romney will give him what he wants.

Unlike a great many political donors, Adelson’s political contributions are not primarily related to promoting his business. Instead, he is interested in promoting causes he cares about, principally the security of the state of Israel. The willingness of Jewish Democrats to smear Adelson because he rightly sees President Obama as no friend to Israel is unconscionable, especially because he is well-known for his generosity to a host of non-political issues and charities.

Adelson is hardly alone in his desire to see Pollard freed after 27 years in prison. As I wrote in a COMMENTARY article on the Pollard case published last year, the former U.S. Navy analyst is no hero. He broke his oath to the United States and did much damage to the U.S.-Israel relationship as well as to loyal American Jews who serve in the government. But his punishment was disproportionate–no spy for a friendly government has ever received anything close to a life sentence. Nevertheless, it was foolish of anyone to expect even someone as sympathetic to Israel as Romney to say anything about the case during the election campaign.

As for moving the embassy, that is an evergreen request from pro-Israel contributors and activists of all political stripes. Romney has come closer to pledging to move the embassy than most candidates. It’s an idea that makes sense, because it is absurd for the U.S. to pretend Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital and doing so only allows the Palestinians to go on dreaming that America will someday help them drive the Jews out of Jerusalem. If Romney does move the embassy, it will be a shocking case of a candidate actually keeping a promise that no one expects him to keep. But if, in the unlikely event that happens, it will not be the result of Adelson’s contributions, but a decision on the part of the new administration that President Obama’s desire to distance the U.S. from Israel needs to be symbolically reversed.

But the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from this discussion is not about the rights and wrongs of Adelson’s requests but how this story effectively debunks liberal myths about campaign contributions. Not only is Adelson not getting his way on these requests, but the Romney campaign isn’t shy about making it clear that even the most beneficent contributor to the candidate’s coffers can expect nothing more than a civil hearing.

Try as they might, liberals will never be able to take money out of politics. But the free flow of political contributions and the speech such money buys rarely results in the quid pro quo that horrified leftists assume such transactions always entail. Adelson is backing Romney because he can’t stand Obama. The only thing he can be sure of getting for his money is helping the chances that the president will be defeated. Beyond that, all he can do is hope his candidate will live up to his promises and do the right thing on those issues where there is no promise. Which puts Adelson pretty much in the same boat as every other citizen, even those without millions to give politicians.

Read Less

Group Calls for Romney Apology

File this in the “Never Going to Happen” folder. The Hill reports that Jewish Voice for Peace is sending Mitt Romney a petition demanding that he apologize for his comments about Palestinian culture:

Jewish Voice for Peace has called Romney’s comments at a Jerusalem fundraiser last Monday “racist and ignorant.” Romney says he did not mean to denigrate Palestinians when he credited “the power of at least culture” and the “hand of providence” for Israel’s superior economy.

The petition, addressed to “Governor Mitt Romney,” urges him to apologize. …

“Your comments were not a reflection of the values Jews, Americans, and our allies hold dear. We call on you to apologize to the Palestinian people for your willful lack of understanding of the facts on the ground and the racist assumptions behind them.”

Read More

File this in the “Never Going to Happen” folder. The Hill reports that Jewish Voice for Peace is sending Mitt Romney a petition demanding that he apologize for his comments about Palestinian culture:

Jewish Voice for Peace has called Romney’s comments at a Jerusalem fundraiser last Monday “racist and ignorant.” Romney says he did not mean to denigrate Palestinians when he credited “the power of at least culture” and the “hand of providence” for Israel’s superior economy.

The petition, addressed to “Governor Mitt Romney,” urges him to apologize. …

“Your comments were not a reflection of the values Jews, Americans, and our allies hold dear. We call on you to apologize to the Palestinian people for your willful lack of understanding of the facts on the ground and the racist assumptions behind them.”

The Hill calls Jewish Voice for Peace a “liberal Jewish group,” but it’s far more accurate to describe it as a fiercely anti-Israel group. JVP is one of the most outspoken supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel in the U.S. As NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg and Yitzhak Santis wrote in the New York Jewish Week last month, JVP “provide[s] a useful cover for non-Jews to justify gratuitous Israel-bashing.” Steinberg and Yitzhak wrote that JVP’s Rabbinical Council has defended Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian group which has dabbled in false deicide charges against Jews. The Anti-Defamation League has written:

Sabeel often compares the Palestinians to the crucified Jesus, and Israel to his murderers, alluding to the ugly and false deicide charge against all the Jewish people – a concept rejected by prominent historians and repudiated by the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations.

In his paper, The Zionist Ideology of Domination Versus the Reign of God, the organization’s Jerusalem-based director, Rev. Naim Ateek, compares what he calls the “powers of darkness” against which Jesus fought to “the evil structures that have dominated the Palestinians for the last hundred years.”

In his Easter message in spring 2001, Ateek described the political situation in these words: “It seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him…Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.”

The JVP is a fringe group that doesn’t have standing to influence mainstream politics in the first place. But it’s comical that it would demand an apology from Romney about his supposedly “offensive” comments, after its Rabbinical Council defended a group such as Sabeel.

Read Less

Romney Outraises Obama by Wide Margin

For the second month in a row, Mitt Romney outraised President Obama by a wide margin. Obama and the DNC brought in $75 million, the campaign announced on Twitter, while the Romney campaign and the RNC raised $101 million:

The gap is slightly smaller than it was in June, when Romney raised $106 million and Obama brought in $71 million, but it’s the second-straight month that Romney has pulled in nine figures and the third-straight month he has outraised the incumbent president.

The fundraising numbers are split between the candidates’ campaign committees, their respective national party committees and joint fundraising committees that raise money for both entities.

Romney’s campaign said the three combined had $185.9 million in the bank at the end of July; Obama’s team did not announce a cash-on-hand figure.

Read More

For the second month in a row, Mitt Romney outraised President Obama by a wide margin. Obama and the DNC brought in $75 million, the campaign announced on Twitter, while the Romney campaign and the RNC raised $101 million:

The gap is slightly smaller than it was in June, when Romney raised $106 million and Obama brought in $71 million, but it’s the second-straight month that Romney has pulled in nine figures and the third-straight month he has outraised the incumbent president.

The fundraising numbers are split between the candidates’ campaign committees, their respective national party committees and joint fundraising committees that raise money for both entities.

Romney’s campaign said the three combined had $185.9 million in the bank at the end of July; Obama’s team did not announce a cash-on-hand figure.

Romney had a $25 million cash-on-hand advantage over Obama early last month, and it’s undoubtedly grown since then. Obama has also been spending his campaign money at an unprecedented rate, according to the New York Times:

President Obama has spent more campaign cash more quickly than any incumbent in recent history, betting that heavy early investments in personnel, field offices and a high-tech campaign infrastructure will propel him to victory in November.

Since the beginning of last year, Mr. Obama and the Democrats have burned through millions of dollars to find and register voters. They have spent almost $50 million subsidizing Democratic state parties to hire workers, pay for cellphones and update voter lists. They have spent tens of millions of dollars on polling, online advertising and software development to turn Mr. Obama’s fallow volunteers corps into a grass-roots army.

But now Mr. Obama’s big-dollar bet is being tested. With less than a month to go before the national party conventions begin, the president’s once commanding cash advantage has evaporated, leaving Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee with about $25 million more cash on hand than the Democrats as of the beginning of July.

Obama will have less money for advertising blitzes this fall, but let’s also look at this in perspective. There’s a finite amount of advertising dollars you can spend before you saturate the airwaves, so perhaps the Obama campaign isn’t concerned about lagging in that area. The most critical element for the president is getting his base to turn out and vote, which is why he burned through so much cash investing in on-the-ground infrastructure.

Which is one reason Democrats are probably so concerned about the voter ID law. It doesn’t seem like much to ask a voter to show proof of identity, but it could also require some degree of pre-planning (either to apply for an ID or to bring an ID along) that the very low-interest, apathetic voters just don’t feel like investing. And these are the same voters who get-out-the-vote operations tend to target.

Read Less

Ryan-for-VP Rumors Heat Up

Mitt Romney’s VP announcement could come any day now, and a lot of the latest chatter has focused around Rep. Paul Ryan, who has made some moves lately that ignited speculation. Politicker reports:

Mr. Ryan was scheduled to speak at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s Defending the American Dream Summit in Washington tonight, but he cancelled the appearance. …

Organizers told us they were unsure why Mr. Ryan pulled out of the planned speech. …

The cancelled speech isn’t the only thing that caused speculation to swirl around Mr. Ryan this afternoon. Eagle-eyed Politico reporter Ken Vogel also noted Mr. Ryan’s political action committee, Prosperity PAC, filed amended versions of its three most recent monthly fundraising reports today.

“Preparing for big announcement w FEC cleanup?” Mr. Vogel asked.

Mr. Seifert said the reports had to be amended when Mr. Ryan’s staff noticed a donation made in April was accidentally counted for both the Prosperity Action Committee and the congressman’s joint action committee, a mistake which carried over into subsequent reports.

Read More

Mitt Romney’s VP announcement could come any day now, and a lot of the latest chatter has focused around Rep. Paul Ryan, who has made some moves lately that ignited speculation. Politicker reports:

Mr. Ryan was scheduled to speak at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s Defending the American Dream Summit in Washington tonight, but he cancelled the appearance. …

Organizers told us they were unsure why Mr. Ryan pulled out of the planned speech. …

The cancelled speech isn’t the only thing that caused speculation to swirl around Mr. Ryan this afternoon. Eagle-eyed Politico reporter Ken Vogel also noted Mr. Ryan’s political action committee, Prosperity PAC, filed amended versions of its three most recent monthly fundraising reports today.

“Preparing for big announcement w FEC cleanup?” Mr. Vogel asked.

Mr. Seifert said the reports had to be amended when Mr. Ryan’s staff noticed a donation made in April was accidentally counted for both the Prosperity Action Committee and the congressman’s joint action committee, a mistake which carried over into subsequent reports.

Both the FEC cleanup and the cancelled speech could be completely unrelated and innocuous, but at this point, any unusual activity by any of the VP possibilities is going to be heavily analyzed. Knowing that, it’s interesting Ryan decided to amend its fundraising reports at this time, when he could have waited until next month and aroused far less interest. Why choose this time to do it?

Ryan, Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman appear to be the three most likely picks at this point. At National Review, Jay Nordlinger makes the case for Portman, defending him against charges that he’s too “vanilla”:

I don’t know whether he’s the right choice for VP this year. I could argue for about five of them. I could probably bump that up to about eight. But the idea that Portman’s not a real conservative — the genuine article, a child of Reagan — is nuts. “He doesn’t excite me,” people say. Well . . . different people are excited by different things. A superb conservative leader who can help keep this country from swirling down the drain? Not unexciting.

Portman’s perceived dullness may be one problem, but his association with the Bush administration’s economic policies seems to be a far bigger one. The Obama administration is dying to turn this into an argument between President Clinton’s economic policies (as ridiculous as that is, considering Obama has been in office nearly a full term), and the supposed “failed policies of the Bush years.” Why else was Clinton tapped as the keynote for the Democratic National Convention? They’d love nothing more than to tie Romney to the “policies that got us into this mess in the first place,” as Team Obama is fond of saying.

And while Tim Pawlenty positioned himself as a Tea Party type during the last year or so, he still lacks the charisma to really excite the base. He has the experience on the campaign trail and clearly knows how to give a stump speech. But does he have the fire in his belly to take what the Obama campaign is going to throw at him? Remember, he choked at last summer’s debate when he couldn’t bring himself to say “Obamneycare” to Romney’s face. More than that, choosing Pawlenty could end up demoralizing a party that is looking for a gloves-off fight between conservative small-government principles and Obama’s nanny-statism.

At the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol and Stephen Hayes make the case for either Ryan or Marco Rubio:

It’s become conventional wisdom that Ryan and Rubio would be “bold” picks, while other choices like Ohio Senator Rob Portman and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty are “safe.” Perhaps. But what looks safe can be risky. Portman, a good man and respected public servant, was George W. Bush’s budget director. Pawlenty’s presidential campaign was a disaster. The 2010 election was the best for Republicans in a long time. Ryan and Rubio embody the spirit of 2010. Pawlenty and Portman don’t.

But beyond all of the calculations—beyond demography, geography, and the polls—is the most compelling reason for Romney to pick Ryan or Rubio: Doing so would signal that Romney understands the magnitude of the problems facing the country and would demonstrate that he has the will to solve them. It would suggest that Romney knows this is a big moment, and that he’s willing to run a big campaign. And at a time when the country so desperately needs real leadership, Romney would make clear that he’s ready to provide it by picking either Ryan or Rubio.

If Romney is looking for someone who can tap into the energy of the 2010 Tea Party and make this an election about change, he can’t go wrong with Rubio or Ryan.

Read Less

Does the Early Bird Get the Political Worm?

Given the hundreds of millions that both political parties and their presidential candidates have raised this year, it isn’t likely that either side will run out of cash before November. But the latest reports about how the two sides are utilizing their resources have raised an interesting question about campaign strategy. With President Obama’s campaign spending money like it’s going out of style in the spring and summer, it’s clear that despite the expectation earlier in the year that the formidable machine the Democrats have built would have a considerable financial edge, the opposite may be true. As the New York Times reports, Mitt Romney and the Republicans will likely have more money to spend in the fall campaign than their rivals.

The Democrats have spent the last couple of months going all in on nasty personal attacks on Romney that they hope, combined with spending on voter registration and other campaign infrastructure, will pave the way for an Obama victory. That’s a rational strategy but it leaves them open to some second-guessing. They are gambling that their sliming of Romney will sour the public on the GOP candidate will work. But if their charges don’t stick, they will be left to face a still viable rival in September and October who will be able to outspend them on the ground in battleground states.

Read More

Given the hundreds of millions that both political parties and their presidential candidates have raised this year, it isn’t likely that either side will run out of cash before November. But the latest reports about how the two sides are utilizing their resources have raised an interesting question about campaign strategy. With President Obama’s campaign spending money like it’s going out of style in the spring and summer, it’s clear that despite the expectation earlier in the year that the formidable machine the Democrats have built would have a considerable financial edge, the opposite may be true. As the New York Times reports, Mitt Romney and the Republicans will likely have more money to spend in the fall campaign than their rivals.

The Democrats have spent the last couple of months going all in on nasty personal attacks on Romney that they hope, combined with spending on voter registration and other campaign infrastructure, will pave the way for an Obama victory. That’s a rational strategy but it leaves them open to some second-guessing. They are gambling that their sliming of Romney will sour the public on the GOP candidate will work. But if their charges don’t stick, they will be left to face a still viable rival in September and October who will be able to outspend them on the ground in battleground states.

So far the jury is out on the impact of the Democratic spending spree. The president has to be encouraged by polls showing him holding on to an edge in some swing states but the national polls portray a race that is still deadlocked. Factors that have little to do with the money spent by the campaigns such as the state of the economy or the outcome of the presidential debates will have a greater impact on the outcome than the bottom line of the candidates’ bank accounts. But Obama’s decision to not hold back more of his campaign war chest for the decisive final weeks when he may require some flexibility to respond to a fluid political situation may come back to haunt him.

The Democrats willingness to invest in measures designed to increase their turnout is smart. But it also highlights one of the president’s weaknesses. Unlike in 2008, there is no wave of enthusiasm for his candidacy that will impel unusually large numbers of young or minority voters to vote for him. With the “hope and change” mantra consigned to the history books, the Obama campaign has fallen back on the last resort of all incumbents who can’t run on their records: trashing their opponents. While the Democrats accuse Republicans of trying to suppress voter turnout, it is their own consistently negative approach to the election that is the factor that is turning off the public and making a large turnout unlikely.

In 2008, the president also had a decisive edge in campaign finance that allowed him to swamp John McCain down the homestretch. Due to Romney’s own impressive fundraising that won’t happen this year. And, as it now appears likely, the GOP nominee emerges from the summer without being sunk by the Democrats effort to destroy his reputation he will have a fighting chance to use his money to level the playing field in the final months.

The early bird may sometimes get the political worm. But the problem for the president is that if all of his early spending fails to achieve his goal of hamstringing Romney, he may have set the stage for a Republican comeback.

Read Less

Clinton and Palestinian Culture: Not So Fast

Over at the Atlantic, Garance Franke-Ruta contrasts Mitt Romney’s opinion of Palestinian “culture” (or, rather, how the media interpreted his comments) with that of Bill Clinton. With a hat-tip to National Journal’s Matthew Cooper, who dug up the quote, Franke-Ruta publishes a comment Clinton made in a speech last year in Riyadh that would seem to put him at stark odds with Romney on their evaluations of Palestinian culture.

When I read the quote, I immediately recognized it: I once heard Clinton deliver the same line–only it was to a Jewish audience, and it was meant to make the opposite point he was making to the Saudis, a point that comports much more with what Romney said. (Classic Clinton there, by the way.) First, what Franke-Ruta quotes, via the Arab News:

He said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have done a remarkable job in the West Bank. “It is just an example of what would happen for the Palestinian people if they are given a chance to govern,” Clinton said. “Palestinians are a hard-working and an incredible community. They have done remarkably well outside their country. I have never met a poor Palestinian in the United States; every Palestinian I know is a college professor or a doctor.”

The problem in Israel, he said, is what happens in multiparty democracies around the world. “If you take a poll today, two-thirds of Israelis will support peace and a peace agreement,” Clinton said. “However, it is hard to get an Israeli Parliament that reflects the people’s views on this one issue. But we all have to keep pushing.”

Read More

Over at the Atlantic, Garance Franke-Ruta contrasts Mitt Romney’s opinion of Palestinian “culture” (or, rather, how the media interpreted his comments) with that of Bill Clinton. With a hat-tip to National Journal’s Matthew Cooper, who dug up the quote, Franke-Ruta publishes a comment Clinton made in a speech last year in Riyadh that would seem to put him at stark odds with Romney on their evaluations of Palestinian culture.

When I read the quote, I immediately recognized it: I once heard Clinton deliver the same line–only it was to a Jewish audience, and it was meant to make the opposite point he was making to the Saudis, a point that comports much more with what Romney said. (Classic Clinton there, by the way.) First, what Franke-Ruta quotes, via the Arab News:

He said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have done a remarkable job in the West Bank. “It is just an example of what would happen for the Palestinian people if they are given a chance to govern,” Clinton said. “Palestinians are a hard-working and an incredible community. They have done remarkably well outside their country. I have never met a poor Palestinian in the United States; every Palestinian I know is a college professor or a doctor.”

The problem in Israel, he said, is what happens in multiparty democracies around the world. “If you take a poll today, two-thirds of Israelis will support peace and a peace agreement,” Clinton said. “However, it is hard to get an Israeli Parliament that reflects the people’s views on this one issue. But we all have to keep pushing.”

This was a clever rhetorical trick here. Clinton doesn’t say the problem is in Israel, he just switches immediately to the problem in Israel, leaving the impression this is Israel’s fault without explicitly saying so. (Also, his comment about Israelis being unable to elect a Knesset that shares the popular view on the peace process is nonsense; the Israelis have such a government now.)

That line about rich Palestinians in America made it easy to find my own account of Clinton’s speech to the American Jewish World Service in 2007. There, he made the same remark about all the Palestinian professors he knows, but then Clinton expressed his frustration that the Palestinians in Gaza possess some of the most beautiful beaches he’s ever seen, beaches that could be tourism cash cows, if only they could get their act together. He also noted that the Palestinians chose to destroy much of the infrastructure Israel left behind after the 2005 disengagement, rather than use it and build on it as free capital.

Their obsession with violence and warfare, he noted–not just against Israel but against each other as well–was destroying their development. Then he said this: “Those of us who are in a position to know better, and have the circumstantial freedom to do better, have a very real obligation to act on what we know.”

Now that is quite the condescending statement. Those of us who know better than the Palestinians–who have the resources and intelligence but, according to Clinton, not the cultural drive to prioritize economic development over retaliatory conflict–have a responsibility to take our values global to help others.

Clinton’s speech at that AJWS event, by the way, was flawless and universally well-received. Not a single objection during or after, as far as I can remember, was raised about the condescending manner in which Clinton spoke about Palestinian culture or the fact that he clearly laid the blame at the Palestinians’ own feet. Perhaps that’s because he was out of office. Or perhaps it’s because hypocrisy is the lifeblood of manufactured outrage, and the media’s response to Romney’s remarks contain a whole lot of both.

UPDATE: Turns out my old article on the event for a now-defunct Jewish newspaper was somehow still online. I’ve added the link to the story.

Read Less

What Harry Reid Thinks of HuffPo

Senator Harry Reid doesn’t seem to think much of the Huffington Post. Ready with an unsubstantiated rumor to spread about Mitt Romney’s taxes, Reid went to the HuffPo, assuming he was on friendly ground, free of fact-checkers. That’s really the only explanation for why he thought he could get these outlandish allegations against Mitt Romney into print:

In a wide-ranging interview with the Huffington Post from his office on Capitol Hill, Reid saved some of his toughest words for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Romney couldn’t make it through a Senate confirmation process as a mere Cabinet nominee, the majority leader insisted, owing to the opaqueness of his personal finances. …

Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.

“Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years,” Reid recounted the person as saying.

“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” said Reid. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?”

Read More

Senator Harry Reid doesn’t seem to think much of the Huffington Post. Ready with an unsubstantiated rumor to spread about Mitt Romney’s taxes, Reid went to the HuffPo, assuming he was on friendly ground, free of fact-checkers. That’s really the only explanation for why he thought he could get these outlandish allegations against Mitt Romney into print:

In a wide-ranging interview with the Huffington Post from his office on Capitol Hill, Reid saved some of his toughest words for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Romney couldn’t make it through a Senate confirmation process as a mere Cabinet nominee, the majority leader insisted, owing to the opaqueness of his personal finances. …

Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.

“Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years,” Reid recounted the person as saying.

“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” said Reid. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?”

HuffPo notes that Reid’s office wouldn’t provide the name of the investor who “told” him about Romney’s alleged 10-year tax vacation. Hmm. For a reporter, wouldn’t that normally be a gigantic, flashing warning sign that you are probably about to be played? Let’s walk through this again: Reid says he spoke to a Bain investor on the phone who handed him this bombshell. He brings it up during a conversation with reporters. And yet he doesn’t provide the guy’s name so the journalists can go take a closer look at the story? What? Why not?

Reid has a personal and political interest in helping Obama get reelected. If he really received information about Romney dodging taxes from a source he trusted, why on earth would he go to HuffPo to cryptically recount this story second-hand rather than give them the name of the investor who supposedly knows about it and have the reporters nail it to the wall?

At Fortune, Dan Primack destroys any shred of doubt Reid’s story is pure fantasy:

One of two things has happened: (1) Reid is simply making the whole thing up, in order to pressure Romney into releasing tax returns for years prior to 2010, or (2) Reid’s investor pal lied, and the senator didn’t bother to conduct even a mild vetting before sharing the accusation with reporters. Either way, shame on gossipy gentleman from Nevada.

Let me make this crystal clear: Investors in private equity funds do not receive, nor are they entitled to request, personal tax returns for fund managers. Not just at Bain Capital, but everywhere. For example, ask the person managing your 401(k) for their personal tax returns. See how far you get. …

A Reid spokesman defended his boss to me on the phone, only saying that I’d have to talk to Reid’s original source. But of course he wouldn’t provide the source, or even ask Reid if there had been a follow-up like “How the hell would you know that?”

Whatever the truth about Romney’s tax history, we know that Reid’s “source” is full of it.

Unless Reid comes clean about his source or provides some more information, journalists should stop reporting this as if it’s anything more than an unsubstantiated and highly dubious smear from a Romney opponent.

Read Less

The Dinkins Effect in the Presidential Race

Andrew Malcolm at Investors Business Daily has an interesting column on whether those who are telling pollsters they intend to vote for the president really are going to do so. The vast majority of them surely will, of course. But politics, like baseball, is a game of inches. If only two percent of those saying they will vote for Obama go into the voting booth and vote for Romney instead, that’s a four-percent shift, turning a comfortable 52-48 win into a 48-52 loss. If they simply stay home, that turns 52-48 into 50-50.

There are numerous signs the Obama campaign is very, very worried. His fundraising has not been the money machine it was in 2008, despite Obama’s burning out the engines of Air Force One going, hat in hand, from one group of fat cats to another. He is running through the money he does raise at a furious pace, mostly running negative ads in toss-up states. He is trying to shore up his base rather than reaching out to the center as he would if his base were secure. That doesn’t bear much resemblance to Ronald Reagan’s “It’s Morning in America” campaign of 1984, does it? There are even those who say Wall Street’s recent climb, despite very gloomy economic news, is due to a growing conviction on the Street that Obama is toast.

And yet pollsters all have the race tight as a tick, as Karl Rove terms it. What’s going on?

Read More

Andrew Malcolm at Investors Business Daily has an interesting column on whether those who are telling pollsters they intend to vote for the president really are going to do so. The vast majority of them surely will, of course. But politics, like baseball, is a game of inches. If only two percent of those saying they will vote for Obama go into the voting booth and vote for Romney instead, that’s a four-percent shift, turning a comfortable 52-48 win into a 48-52 loss. If they simply stay home, that turns 52-48 into 50-50.

There are numerous signs the Obama campaign is very, very worried. His fundraising has not been the money machine it was in 2008, despite Obama’s burning out the engines of Air Force One going, hat in hand, from one group of fat cats to another. He is running through the money he does raise at a furious pace, mostly running negative ads in toss-up states. He is trying to shore up his base rather than reaching out to the center as he would if his base were secure. That doesn’t bear much resemblance to Ronald Reagan’s “It’s Morning in America” campaign of 1984, does it? There are even those who say Wall Street’s recent climb, despite very gloomy economic news, is due to a growing conviction on the Street that Obama is toast.

And yet pollsters all have the race tight as a tick, as Karl Rove terms it. What’s going on?

I think what I call the Dinkins effect is in operation. David Dinkins was the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York in 1989, having defeated three-term incumbent Ed Koch in the primary. His Republican opponent was Rudy Giuliani. The polls all showed Dinkins well ahead, but he won the race only narrowly. In 1993, there was the same match-up. The polls all showed Dinkins (who had a lousy record as mayor) as narrowly ahead. Giuliani won in a walk. The reason the polls were so wrong, I think, was because Dinkins is black and some people were simply unwilling to say, even to a pollster, they were voting against the black guy. Racism is nearly extinct in this country, but the fear of being thought racist is pervasive, and the willingness of some people on the left to play the race card apparent.

Could that be why President Obama has high ratings in polls asking about his “likeability”? My dislike of his politics probably clouds my judgment somewhat, but I don’t find him likeable at all. He’s arrogant, often mean-spirited, sometimes downright nasty. He avoids taking responsibility for failure but takes all the credit for success. He doesn’t have much of a sense of humor that I can see. He’s, well, chilly. I don’t like Bill Clinton’s politics much either, but I’m sure I’d have a great time having dinner with him some night. He may be left-of-center and more than a bit of a scoundrel in his personal life, but likeable he most certainly is. Obama, simply, is not.

Also, of course, a lot of people might be unwilling to admit they think they were sold a bills of goods in 2008 by a political flim-flam man. No one likes to admit they were cheated. So they say they’re voting for Obama but then won’t.

I’d certainly advise the Romney campaign to ignore all this speculation. No one ever lost a political race because they assumed they were ten points behind and acted accordingly.

Read Less

Mitt Finds Solidarity in Poland

Polish Anti-Communist and Nobel Peace Laureate Lech Walesa embraced Mitt Romney’s candidacy during his visit to Poland this week, but later added that Romney has to work a bit on his charisma. Still, it’s a pretty good pickup for the Romney campaign:

“I wish you to be successful because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too,” Walesa said through a translator. “Gov. Romney, get your success. Be successful!”

The endorsement of a U.S. presidential challenger, unusual in its boldness, was particularly eyebrow-raising in light of Walesa’s refusal to meet with Obama on his visit to Poland one year ago.

Lech Walesa has had a fairly public feud with Obama, so this won’t come as a total surprise. Last month, the White House rejected requests from Polish officials that Walesa accept the President’s Medal of Freedom for the late Jan Karski, who was honored posthumously for his activism with the Polish Underground and testimony about the Holocaust. The reason? Walesa was apparently “too political,” according to the administration. The Nobel Peace recipient has also criticized Obama’s policies and declined to meet with the president during one of his visits to Poland.

Read More

Polish Anti-Communist and Nobel Peace Laureate Lech Walesa embraced Mitt Romney’s candidacy during his visit to Poland this week, but later added that Romney has to work a bit on his charisma. Still, it’s a pretty good pickup for the Romney campaign:

“I wish you to be successful because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too,” Walesa said through a translator. “Gov. Romney, get your success. Be successful!”

The endorsement of a U.S. presidential challenger, unusual in its boldness, was particularly eyebrow-raising in light of Walesa’s refusal to meet with Obama on his visit to Poland one year ago.

Lech Walesa has had a fairly public feud with Obama, so this won’t come as a total surprise. Last month, the White House rejected requests from Polish officials that Walesa accept the President’s Medal of Freedom for the late Jan Karski, who was honored posthumously for his activism with the Polish Underground and testimony about the Holocaust. The reason? Walesa was apparently “too political,” according to the administration. The Nobel Peace recipient has also criticized Obama’s policies and declined to meet with the president during one of his visits to Poland.

But ABC wonders whether Walesa’s endorsement of Romney is also a reflection of Polish feelings toward Obama:

So what impact will Walesa’s embrace of Romney have on the 2012 presidential race? Little, experts say, although it does symbolize a real sense of discontentment among many Poles and Polish-Americans over Obama’s handling of the bilateral alliance during his term.

“This is a powerful statement on Polish relations with the U.S. right now,” Alex Storozynski, president of the Kosciuszko Foundation, a nonpartisan Polish educational and cultural group, said of the Walesa endorsement.  “Poles in Poland are frustrated with the Obama administration.”

They certainly have reason to be frustrated. Obama has reneged on missile defense, blindly pursued the Russian “reset,” and failed to honor a campaign promise to add Poland to a list of visa waiver countries. Some of this outrage boiled over recently after Obama’s “Polish death camp” remark. Walesa’s bold endorsement of Romney is only the latest indication of Obama’s declining popularity in Poland.

Read Less

Panetta’s Pathetic Plea for Inaction on Iran

The chattering classes are chortling today about the latest supposed mistake by Mitt Romney in which he is being condemned for telling the truth about the corrupt and violent political and economic culture of the Palestinians. Meanwhile in Tunisia, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta committed the real gaffe of the week when he told a credulous traveling press corps that the administration’s effort to get Iran to abandon its drive for nuclear weapons was working even if it didn’t look like it. As the New York Times reports:

“These sanctions are having a serious impact in terms of the economy of Iran.” He added that “while the results of that may not seem obvious at the moment,” the Iranians had expressed a willingness to negotiate, and that they “continue to seem interested in trying to find a diplomatic solution.”

Translation: We know Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is right when he says the sanctions aren’t doing a thing to make the Iranians change their minds and the Iranians know that we know. But as long as Tehran is willing to pretend to negotiate, we will pretend along with them because our main goal is to prevent Israel from trying to actually do something about this deadly threat. And if this makes it clear that all we are trying to do is to kick the can down the road until after the presidential election when we might have more “flexibility” to do a deal with the Iranians, then don’t believe your lying ears and eyes.

Read More

The chattering classes are chortling today about the latest supposed mistake by Mitt Romney in which he is being condemned for telling the truth about the corrupt and violent political and economic culture of the Palestinians. Meanwhile in Tunisia, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta committed the real gaffe of the week when he told a credulous traveling press corps that the administration’s effort to get Iran to abandon its drive for nuclear weapons was working even if it didn’t look like it. As the New York Times reports:

“These sanctions are having a serious impact in terms of the economy of Iran.” He added that “while the results of that may not seem obvious at the moment,” the Iranians had expressed a willingness to negotiate, and that they “continue to seem interested in trying to find a diplomatic solution.”

Translation: We know Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is right when he says the sanctions aren’t doing a thing to make the Iranians change their minds and the Iranians know that we know. But as long as Tehran is willing to pretend to negotiate, we will pretend along with them because our main goal is to prevent Israel from trying to actually do something about this deadly threat. And if this makes it clear that all we are trying to do is to kick the can down the road until after the presidential election when we might have more “flexibility” to do a deal with the Iranians, then don’t believe your lying ears and eyes.

Congress is still arguing about trying to close up the gaping loopholes in the sanctions that have been exacerbated by the administration’s promiscuous granting of waivers that have served to sustain the Iranian economy. Under these circumstances and with Iran showing no signs of buckling, the notion that economic pressure will be enough to resolve the problem is without foundation. Of course, it is “not obvious at the moment” that sanctions are working because it is more than obvious they are not.

As for the Iranians’ willingness to negotiate, it is difficult to understand how even a veteran politician like Panetta can say this with a straight face. Of course, they are willing to keep talking with the West. Iran has been negotiating for years because they know that as long as they do so they can continue making progress toward their nuclear goal.

As the collapse of the P5+1 talks this summer proved, and as every previous attempt at diplomacy and engagement conducted by both the Bush and Obama administrations proved, the only ones to profit from the talking are the Iranians. They have used the time won by such prevarications well as their nuclear centrifuges keep spinning and their stockpile of refined uranium grows. The time frame of their program is unclear, but whether it is one or two years away from actually having a bomb or sooner, the moment is quickly approaching when their efforts will be so far advanced it will be too late for force to be employed to stop them.

At Panetta’s next stop in Israel, he will tell the Israelis to trust that President Obama will do the right thing on Iran even though “it may not seem obvious at the moment” that he has any attention of acting. But instead of laughing at Romney for asking a reasonable question about the London Olympics and for refusing to lie about the morally bankrupt culture of the Palestinians, those who follow foreign policy should be alarmed at Panetta’s pathetic attempt to keep engaging with Iran when doing so only serves the interests of the Islamist regime and its nuclear ambitions.

Read Less

Did Romney Exploit a Jewish Holiday?

For those who wish the Republican presidential candidate ill, there is really nothing he can do to avoid criticism. Case in point was Mitt Romney’s visit yesterday to Jerusalem. At the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg accuses him of being “vulgar” for showing up at the Western Wall on Tisha B’Av. Predictably, Peter Beinart goes even further in the Daily Beast and accuses Romney of “misusing Judaism” to bolster his campaign.

Both are dead wrong. Nothing Romney did was in poor taste or in any way showed disrespect for Jewish sensibilities. In fact, the truth was quite the opposite. Their real problem with Romney is that what he said in Israel illustrated President Obama’s shortcomings. Romney rightly expressed a more realistic assessment of the Iranian nuclear threat than the Obama administration as well as reaffirmed his commitment to reverse the president’s policy in which the U.S. has distanced itself from Israel (at least in those years in which he is not running for re-election).

Read More

For those who wish the Republican presidential candidate ill, there is really nothing he can do to avoid criticism. Case in point was Mitt Romney’s visit yesterday to Jerusalem. At the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg accuses him of being “vulgar” for showing up at the Western Wall on Tisha B’Av. Predictably, Peter Beinart goes even further in the Daily Beast and accuses Romney of “misusing Judaism” to bolster his campaign.

Both are dead wrong. Nothing Romney did was in poor taste or in any way showed disrespect for Jewish sensibilities. In fact, the truth was quite the opposite. Their real problem with Romney is that what he said in Israel illustrated President Obama’s shortcomings. Romney rightly expressed a more realistic assessment of the Iranian nuclear threat than the Obama administration as well as reaffirmed his commitment to reverse the president’s policy in which the U.S. has distanced itself from Israel (at least in those years in which he is not running for re-election).

Goldberg’s post has an inflammatory headline, “Temple Mount Tackiness,” which seems to imply that Romney went up to the site of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which is now occupied by mosques. Any visit to the Temple Mount is fraught with symbolism and controversy (think Ariel Sharon’s 2000 stroll there which was falsely represented as the second intifada). Though the place is truly the most sacred spot in Judaism, Jews are forbidden to pray there lest Muslims think they are plotting to blow up or move the mosques. But Romney did not go up there. He merely joined the throngs praying at the Wall on the anniversary of the Temples’ destruction.

Goldberg seems to think it is wrong for a candidate to go there for a photo op on that day. Had Romney and his entourage barged in and disrupted prayer services, Goldberg might have had a point. But he did not. There was no service going on there at the time, just the usual milling crowds of tourists and the faithful who can be found there on any day. Romney’s behavior was exemplary. To speak of vulgarity is absurd and says more about Goldberg’s crush on Barack Obama than it does about Romney.

More to the point, the symbolism of an American politician going to the Wall on the day that Jews remember the tragedies that have befallen them throughout history is particularly apt. Given the existential threats that still face Israel, the reaffirmation of the U.S. alliance seems to be exactly the sort of thing Jews ought to welcome.

But, of course, that reaffirmation is exactly what troubles Beinart.

Beinart is offended by Romney’s belief the United States ought not to show any public daylight between its positions and Israel. Doing so, as President Obama has done, damages the already dim hopes for peace because such actions encourage the Palestinians to become even more intransigent. Obama’s pressure on Israel has led the Palestinians to believe they don’t have to negotiate with the Jewish state because they think the U.S. will hand them Israeli concessions on a silver platter without them having to give an inch.

But, of course, Beinart doesn’t want any politicians, be they Democrats or Republicans, to show the kind of heartfelt support that Romney expressed. He wants the U.S. to run roughshod over the democratic will of the Israeli people in order to further his unrealistic vision of peace with a Palestinian people who have little interest in such a scheme.

Beinart backs up this point of view, but assuming the pose of a scholar of Judaism and Jewish history is the conceit of his laughably inept book about saving Zionism.

From his perspective, the comments of Romney and Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tisha B’Av in which they noted the need to ensure that the Jews are saved from future catastrophes, are “bad Judaism.” Beinart is right to note that one of the keynotes of the observance of the ninth of Av is introspection in which Jews should learn to avoid the mindless hatred that tradition tells us caused the fall of the Temples. A cynic would note that if anyone is in need of lessons on “introspection and humility” it might be an author who presumes to preach to Israelis while demonstrating little understanding of their concerns. But leaving Beinart’s shortcomings aside, that is not the only perspective on the holiday. It is certainly not the only thing those tasked with dealing with the geo-strategic realities of the Middle East should be thinking about.

It is all well and good to say, as Beinart does, that we all have a little bit of evil within us. But according to him, this insight should lead Israelis not to obsess about the fact that much of the Muslim and Arab world still wishes to wipe them out. Even worse, he thinks that on the day that Jews contemplate the crimes and atrocities committed against them during the last three millennia, they should worry more about the sensibilities of those who are still plotting such evil. Indeed, he thinks the mere fact that Romney failed to mention the Palestinians in a speech devoted to the U.S.-Israel alliance and the need to stop Iran from making good on its genocidal threats “denied the humanity” of the Palestinians.

The most charitable thing that can be said about such an analysis is that Beinart is about as much of an expert on Judaism as he is representative of American Jewish opinion. President Obama’s election year Jewish charm offensive shows he understands the overwhelming majority of American Jews reject Beinart’s view that Israel must be saved from itself or that selective boycotts and brutal pressure should be employed to bring it to its knees so as to facilitate his vision of its future. Tisha B’Av is an apt day for Jews and all people of good will to remember the stakes in the Middle East conflict and of the need to ensure that Jerusalem never again falls to those who would destroy the Jewish people.

Read Less

The Bogus Wimp Factor Argument

Because the entire purpose of Newsweek’s cover now seems to be a) Generating stories for Fox News pundits to yell about, and b) Royals! Some editor apparently called up Michael Tomasky an hour before the magazine went to press and asked him to punch out a bunch of filler words to go along with the headline, “Romney: The Wimp Factor. “The result is a barely-readable 5,000-word blog post full of wisdom like, “Liberals, men of caution and contemplation, are obsessed with data” and “A Republican president sure of his manhood had nothing to prove” and “Harvey Mansfield must have swooned while watching that gripping 60 Minutes segment when Obama and others discussed how [the bin Laden raid] all went down.”

At the Daily Beast, David Frum compares Tomasky’s thesis with the claim that Obama is inspired by Kenyan anti-colonialism:

Michael thinks that Romney is insecure on the inside. Who knows? It’s possible. It’s also possible that Barack Obama is motivated by anti-colonial rage, or by a secret commitment to socialist ideas. It’s possible that George W. Bush was driven by daddy issues, and that Bill Clinton triangulated—not as a political strategy—but because (some) children of alcoholics become compulsive pleasers.

These beguiling theories can energize or console political partisans. They don’t answer the question for which we turn to political journalism: what will the politician do in office? Politicians are masters of appearing to be many different things to many different people. For this reason, the quest for the “real” Romney or the “real” Obama or the “real” anybody else is bound to lead nowhere unless it is bottomed on the hard ground of their record-to-date. Anything else evanesces into gas.

You can’t prove Obama isn’t driven by Kenyan anti-colonialism, just like you can’t prove Romney isn’t secretly insecure. Political bloggers and pundits are always going to try to get inside the heads of politicians. That’s what they should be doing, because it’s important for trying to understand what decisions they’ll make in the future. But Frum is right that it needs to be based on the hard facts of their records and statements.

Read More

Because the entire purpose of Newsweek’s cover now seems to be a) Generating stories for Fox News pundits to yell about, and b) Royals! Some editor apparently called up Michael Tomasky an hour before the magazine went to press and asked him to punch out a bunch of filler words to go along with the headline, “Romney: The Wimp Factor. “The result is a barely-readable 5,000-word blog post full of wisdom like, “Liberals, men of caution and contemplation, are obsessed with data” and “A Republican president sure of his manhood had nothing to prove” and “Harvey Mansfield must have swooned while watching that gripping 60 Minutes segment when Obama and others discussed how [the bin Laden raid] all went down.”

At the Daily Beast, David Frum compares Tomasky’s thesis with the claim that Obama is inspired by Kenyan anti-colonialism:

Michael thinks that Romney is insecure on the inside. Who knows? It’s possible. It’s also possible that Barack Obama is motivated by anti-colonial rage, or by a secret commitment to socialist ideas. It’s possible that George W. Bush was driven by daddy issues, and that Bill Clinton triangulated—not as a political strategy—but because (some) children of alcoholics become compulsive pleasers.

These beguiling theories can energize or console political partisans. They don’t answer the question for which we turn to political journalism: what will the politician do in office? Politicians are masters of appearing to be many different things to many different people. For this reason, the quest for the “real” Romney or the “real” Obama or the “real” anybody else is bound to lead nowhere unless it is bottomed on the hard ground of their record-to-date. Anything else evanesces into gas.

You can’t prove Obama isn’t driven by Kenyan anti-colonialism, just like you can’t prove Romney isn’t secretly insecure. Political bloggers and pundits are always going to try to get inside the heads of politicians. That’s what they should be doing, because it’s important for trying to understand what decisions they’ll make in the future. But Frum is right that it needs to be based on the hard facts of their records and statements.

Tomasky makes no real effort to figure out what makes Romney tick, and he obviously didn’t delve into the subject with empathy or open-mindedness or an interest in truly understanding the man. It’s unfortunate, because Romney is so guarded, and it would actually be interesting to know more about what drives him as a candidate.

Read Less

Bibi Caught Between Obama and Romney

It is a cardinal rule of foreign policy that it is almost always a mistake to interfere in another country’s elections. When it comes to the United States’ interest in Israel, that is a maxim that has often been observed in the breach. U.S. government attempts to influence Israeli elections are ill-advised and don’t always work, as Bill Clinton learned in 1996 when he did everything but go door to door canvassing voters in Tel Aviv in a vain attempt to stop Benjamin Netanyahu from becoming prime minister of Israel. But any Israeli efforts to signal their preferences in American presidential elections may have unfortunate consequences. That’s why Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been at pains throughout the past year to make it clear he wants no part in the 2012 contest between President Obama and Mitt Romney. But however hard Netanyahu has tried to stay out of the fractious debate about which of the two is a better friend to the Jewish state, Romney’s visit to Israel yesterday left little doubt that while officially neutral, there isn’t much daylight between the GOP candidate and Jerusalem.

The upshot of Netanyahu’s meeting with Romney made it clear that his government is much closer to the Republican’s position on how to deal with Iran than Obama’s. Netanyahu’s saying, “Mitt, I couldn’t agree with you more,” about the need to stop Iran came on the same day that he reiterated his belief that the Obama administration’s reliance on sanctions and diplomacy was not working. Combined with Romney’s acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the day’s events might leave some with the impression that Israel has a rooting interest in the U.S. election. That isn’t what Netanyahu wants, as he knows there is a good chance he will be stuck dealing with Obama next year. But there is no way of escaping this dilemma. Because the administration’s positions on Iran, like the stances it took on settlements, the 1967 lines and the status of Jerusalem prior to the president’s election year Jewish charm offensive, are antithetical to Israel’s point of view, it is only natural for observers to conclude that Netanyahu would rather not find out what a second Obama administration will be like.

Read More

It is a cardinal rule of foreign policy that it is almost always a mistake to interfere in another country’s elections. When it comes to the United States’ interest in Israel, that is a maxim that has often been observed in the breach. U.S. government attempts to influence Israeli elections are ill-advised and don’t always work, as Bill Clinton learned in 1996 when he did everything but go door to door canvassing voters in Tel Aviv in a vain attempt to stop Benjamin Netanyahu from becoming prime minister of Israel. But any Israeli efforts to signal their preferences in American presidential elections may have unfortunate consequences. That’s why Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been at pains throughout the past year to make it clear he wants no part in the 2012 contest between President Obama and Mitt Romney. But however hard Netanyahu has tried to stay out of the fractious debate about which of the two is a better friend to the Jewish state, Romney’s visit to Israel yesterday left little doubt that while officially neutral, there isn’t much daylight between the GOP candidate and Jerusalem.

The upshot of Netanyahu’s meeting with Romney made it clear that his government is much closer to the Republican’s position on how to deal with Iran than Obama’s. Netanyahu’s saying, “Mitt, I couldn’t agree with you more,” about the need to stop Iran came on the same day that he reiterated his belief that the Obama administration’s reliance on sanctions and diplomacy was not working. Combined with Romney’s acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the day’s events might leave some with the impression that Israel has a rooting interest in the U.S. election. That isn’t what Netanyahu wants, as he knows there is a good chance he will be stuck dealing with Obama next year. But there is no way of escaping this dilemma. Because the administration’s positions on Iran, like the stances it took on settlements, the 1967 lines and the status of Jerusalem prior to the president’s election year Jewish charm offensive, are antithetical to Israel’s point of view, it is only natural for observers to conclude that Netanyahu would rather not find out what a second Obama administration will be like.

Netanyahu will be careful in the coming days to avoid any further “agreement” with Romney. And he will warmly greet Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who will be the second major Obama Cabinet member to arrive in Israel in the past couple of weeks. But Panetta, like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is there to persuade the Israelis to continue trusting the administration on Iran. Given Netanyahu’s correct assessment of Obama’s foolish reliance on diplomacy and sanctions (which the president has undermined with the granting of exemptions to China and India to continue buying Iranian oil), that is impossible.

Indeed, the problem for Netanyahu is that while he may privately believe that a President Romney may have a far better grasp of the realities of the Iranian nuclear threat, as David Horowitz wrote yesterday in the Times of Israel, by January it may be too late for him to make a difference. If by next year, Iran’s nuclear progress is such that its program will have already reached a point of immunity where no amount of Israeli or American air strikes will be able to stop them, then it won’t matter who wins the U.S. presidential election.

What was on display yesterday is not so much a warm friendship between Netanyahu and Romney as the complete disconnect between Israel and Obama. So long as the United States is pursuing a diplomatic process with Iran, it is difficult to imagine an Israeli strike on Iran. The administration has little sense of urgency about the issue and it is worry about that, rather than any great affection for Romney that is motivating Netanyahu these days.

Netanyahu must, as much as he can, stay out of American politics. Anything that could be interpreted as an endorsement of Romney would be rightly viewed as damaging to the U.S.-Israel alliance. But the one thing Romney’s visit does do is give Netanyahu a bit of leverage as he seeks to convince the Americans to face up to the failure of their Iran strategy.

Yet as difficult as Netanyahu’s position may be, Obama must be equally careful. As much as he has made his dislike for the Israeli leader even less of a secret than Netanyahu’s views of the president, the difference is that while Obama is in the fight of his life to hold onto his office this year, Netanyahu is in a commanding position in Israeli politics and will likely hold onto power there throughout the next U.S. presidential term. Netanyahu has good reason to fear what a second Obama administration will have in store for his country. But the president is aware that Netanyahu is just as capable of making his life miserable via an Iran attack. At least until November, the Israeli may be holding more cards in his hand than the American president.

Read Less

Romney Lays Down a Marker in Jerusalem

It is now customary for American presidential candidates to visit Israel and to express their warm support for the Jewish state. In that sense, Mitt Romney’s visit to Jerusalem may be viewed as just typical smart politics, especially for a Republican seeking to shore up evangelical support as well as hoping to make inroads among Jewish voters. Indeed, there was a good deal of overlap between some of Romney’s speech yesterday to the Jerusalem Foundation and positions that President Obama has taken the past few months, notably about rejecting containment of a nuclear Iran.

But Romney’s speech went further on several points than the standard American political pledge to back Israel. He not only acknowledged Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he laid down a position on the Iranian nuclear threat that went much further than that of the administration. By saying Iran must not be allowed to enrich nuclear material, by saying stopping it is the highest national security priority of the United States and by explicitly and pointedly endorsing Israel’s duty to defend itself, Romney laid down a marker that signals if he is elected, American policy on the issue will be very different.

Read More

It is now customary for American presidential candidates to visit Israel and to express their warm support for the Jewish state. In that sense, Mitt Romney’s visit to Jerusalem may be viewed as just typical smart politics, especially for a Republican seeking to shore up evangelical support as well as hoping to make inroads among Jewish voters. Indeed, there was a good deal of overlap between some of Romney’s speech yesterday to the Jerusalem Foundation and positions that President Obama has taken the past few months, notably about rejecting containment of a nuclear Iran.

But Romney’s speech went further on several points than the standard American political pledge to back Israel. He not only acknowledged Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he laid down a position on the Iranian nuclear threat that went much further than that of the administration. By saying Iran must not be allowed to enrich nuclear material, by saying stopping it is the highest national security priority of the United States and by explicitly and pointedly endorsing Israel’s duty to defend itself, Romney laid down a marker that signals if he is elected, American policy on the issue will be very different.

On Jerusalem, cynics are entitled to view Romney’s statement that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital as something that will not be translated into policy if he wins in November. For decades, American candidates and parties have pledged to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and always renege. It is not likely that Romney will be any different in that respect. Coming as it did in the days after both the White House and the State Department refused to make the same acknowledgement, Romney’s remark sought to increase their embarrassment and angered the Palestinian Authority.

It should be remembered that in 2008, candidate Barack Obama acknowledged a unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel when speaking to a Jewish audience and then quickly backtracked a day later. Though the embassy will probably not be moving in a Romney administration, it is doubtful he will retract his remarks.

On Iran, Romney’s position was much stronger than even the president’s often-tough rhetoric on the issue. Both say they will not tolerate a nuclear Iran and will stop it. But the administration draws the line in a different place. They seem willing to live with an Iran that might have the capability of getting a nuke, which explains the president’s going along with compromise proposals set forth by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that would allow Iran to go on refining uranium. Romney rightly opposes any such measure.

While Romney said, “It is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will” stop Iran, he made it clear that no other option — an obvious reference to the use of force — “should be excluded.” And by explicitly endorsing Israel’s right to self-defense in this same context, he also sent a signal (unlike Obama), that stopping Israel from acting on this issue will not be his priority.

Although the specifics of the speech were enough to present a strong contrast with the positions of the administration, the strength of his remarks was in how he expressed these points. It is not enough for an American leader to merely acknowledge the bonds between the two countries. It is vital they show they understand Israel and care deeply about it, a test President Obama has consistently failed.

Romney didn’t merely say Israel had a right to defend itself. By placing the current crisis in the context of Jewish history and saying Israel’s leaders have, in the words of Menachem Begin, “the responsibility to make sure that never again will our independence be destroyed and never again will the Jew become homeless or defenseless,” he demonstrated he understood that history and its meaning for policymakers.

Just as important, Romney does not harbor the same illusions about Iran and its leaders that hamper the president’s understanding of the issue. Unlike Obama, who wasted most of his years in office on feckless attempts to “engage” Iran and weak diplomatic initiatives, Romney understands the conflict with Tehran is one that is, as he put it, as much a moral test as it is one of policy. He takes the Iranians at their word when they say they wish to destroy Israel and, to his credit, says, “I will not look away; and neither will my country.”

One cannot predict what a candidate will do once elected president. If he does win, Romney may well disappoint many of those who cheered his remarks yesterday. But the one thing he did establish was that he has a fundamental understanding of the moral aspects of Israel’s defense policy and the nature of the Iranian regime that threatens the Jewish state. Veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller wrote last week that President Obama is more like Jimmy Carter and unlike those presidents such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who were “in love with the idea of Israel.” Whatever happens in the coming years, it’s clear Romney “gets” Israel–and Barack Obama does not.

Read Less

Tisha B’Av and the Right of Self-Defense

Today is Tisha B’Av, the date in the Hebrew calendar on which a number of catastrophes have befallen the Jews. This is the date on which both of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. Since then, other anti-Semitic powers have taken delight in launching fresh atrocities on the day, including the expulsion from Spain in 1492 to massacres during the Holocaust. It is a solemn day of fasting and one on which Jewish tradition commands us to think about the mindless and sinful hatred within the community that has often brought down calamity on the Jewish people. Such reflection is important at a time when issues and rancor divide Jews and cause them to forget that the values that should unite them are far more important than the issues on which they differ. But it would be more than foolish not to give a thought today to the still potent external threats. Though Israel is beset by many problems, there is no greater menace to the continuance of Jewish life than that posed by Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons.

Thus, it was heartening today to hear thatwhile visiting the Jewish state, Mitt Romney plans to endorse Israel’s right to defend itself against Iran. Romney, who will speak tonight after the conclusion of the holiday, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, who rightly sounded a note of alarm about the failure of the sanctions belatedly enacted by the Obama administration on Iran. Though Washington has been boasting about their tough sanctions policy, today was an apt day for Netanyahu to point out their bravado was disconnected from reality.

Read More

Today is Tisha B’Av, the date in the Hebrew calendar on which a number of catastrophes have befallen the Jews. This is the date on which both of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. Since then, other anti-Semitic powers have taken delight in launching fresh atrocities on the day, including the expulsion from Spain in 1492 to massacres during the Holocaust. It is a solemn day of fasting and one on which Jewish tradition commands us to think about the mindless and sinful hatred within the community that has often brought down calamity on the Jewish people. Such reflection is important at a time when issues and rancor divide Jews and cause them to forget that the values that should unite them are far more important than the issues on which they differ. But it would be more than foolish not to give a thought today to the still potent external threats. Though Israel is beset by many problems, there is no greater menace to the continuance of Jewish life than that posed by Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons.

Thus, it was heartening today to hear thatwhile visiting the Jewish state, Mitt Romney plans to endorse Israel’s right to defend itself against Iran. Romney, who will speak tonight after the conclusion of the holiday, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, who rightly sounded a note of alarm about the failure of the sanctions belatedly enacted by the Obama administration on Iran. Though Washington has been boasting about their tough sanctions policy, today was an apt day for Netanyahu to point out their bravado was disconnected from reality.

The Obama administration has sounded tough on Iran but has made it clear it does not wish Israel to strike on its own. Indeed, the president has seemed to be more concerned about preventing an Israeli strike than on stopping Iran. The only accomplishment of the dead-end negotiating process on which he has placed the country’s hopes for a resolution of the problem has been to make it difficult if not impossible for Israel to act.

The reason why Obama’s sanctions and diplomacy have failed is that the Iranians don’t take him seriously. The exemptions granted to the sanctions have maintained Iran’s oil trade and will keep the regime afloat. More to the point, the ayatollahs believe the president is not only unwilling to hold them accountable, but he will shield them from Israel. The only chance to persuade the Iranians to back down on their nuclear ambitions is to convince them they will pay a terrible price if they do not. Thus, Romney’s willingness to say that Israel has a right to try to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities and that the United States will stand by them if they do sends a significant message to Tehran.

It would be far better for Israel not to be forced to act on its own against Iran. But in the absence of a credible American policy on the nuclear issue, it is Netanyahu’s responsibility to think seriously about doing so if there is no other way out of the dilemma. He understands that the point of the State of Israel is that the Jews will no longer sit and wait while their enemies plot their destruction. If necessary, his government must act to avert or at least postpone the Iranian threat. And America’s leaders should be not only acting on their own to stop Iran but backing up Israel’s right of self-defense.

While this statement will be dismissed as Romney playing politics with foreign policy, it will do more than merely make Iran’s rulers anxious. It also has the potential to aid Obama’s diplomatic efforts. The ayatollahs must now realize that if Romney is elected all bets are off when it comes to their heretofore successful strategy of dealing with the West. For years, they have been able to talk and lie their way through the crisis because they understood the Obama administration was only interested in kicking the can down the road to avoid having to take action. But unless the Iranians are sure Obama will be re-elected, they have to consider the possibility that they must try and cut a deal now with Obama (and therefore boost his chances of winning) or be left to face a far less accommodating new president next year.

Given the ideological premise of their nuclear ambition, it is to be doubted that anything, even the threat of having to face Romney and Netanyahu in January, can convince Iran to back down. But as Jews remember their past today, let us hope that the rulers of Tehran, who have boasted of their desire to eliminate the State of Israel and seek the means to do so, will listen to what Romney said and draw the appropriate conclusion. On this day, it is important that those who are intent on creating new tragedies understand that this time, the Jews will strike first.

Read Less

Where’s Winston? Not Where He Belongs

As part of its effort to try and show up Mitt Romney during his foreign tour, the White House is working overtime in a vain attempt to deny that President Obama has gone out of his way to de-emphasize the formerly “special relationship” that existed between the United States and Great Britain. The symbol of Obama’s disdain for Britain was his decision to remove a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. Some have wrongly claimed it was returned to the British Embassy but as Politico reports, the White House communications director blogged today to point out that it has merely been relegated to the part of the mansion where the First Family lives (and where David Cameron was marched to get a picture of him looking at the bust with the president in 2010).

That’s nice to know, because it will make it easier for Romney to make good on his promise to return it to a place of much greater prominence, but it also doesn’t quite debunk the charge that the removal of the bust is an apt symbol of Obama’s downgrading of the British alliance. To pretend that taking it out of the Oval Office was not a slight and an indication of Obama’s issues with the Brits is disingenuous. But as with the Democrats’ attempts to persuade Jewish voters to forget three years of slights to Israel, the administration’s cheerleaders have no shame about trying to re-write history. The substance of Obama’s attitude toward Britain is far more damning than any misplaced bust.

Read More

As part of its effort to try and show up Mitt Romney during his foreign tour, the White House is working overtime in a vain attempt to deny that President Obama has gone out of his way to de-emphasize the formerly “special relationship” that existed between the United States and Great Britain. The symbol of Obama’s disdain for Britain was his decision to remove a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. Some have wrongly claimed it was returned to the British Embassy but as Politico reports, the White House communications director blogged today to point out that it has merely been relegated to the part of the mansion where the First Family lives (and where David Cameron was marched to get a picture of him looking at the bust with the president in 2010).

That’s nice to know, because it will make it easier for Romney to make good on his promise to return it to a place of much greater prominence, but it also doesn’t quite debunk the charge that the removal of the bust is an apt symbol of Obama’s downgrading of the British alliance. To pretend that taking it out of the Oval Office was not a slight and an indication of Obama’s issues with the Brits is disingenuous. But as with the Democrats’ attempts to persuade Jewish voters to forget three years of slights to Israel, the administration’s cheerleaders have no shame about trying to re-write history. The substance of Obama’s attitude toward Britain is far more damning than any misplaced bust.

This is, after all, the administration that openly sided with Argentina about its attempts to revive its bogus claim to the Falklands Islands and denied there was anything “special” about the relationship with the U.K. It takes a special kind of chutzpah for Senator John Kerry (who is openly auditioning for the chance to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state in a second Obama administration) to claim as he did today in the Huffington Post that it is Mitt Romney who has endangered the alliance by calling out Obama for his mistakes.

It is true Romney believes the United States should not allow its national interest to be held hostage by the fears of our European allies, even the Brits. Kerry is right about one thing. Since Barack Obama became president, Europe has not been allowed to hold America back, because on issues such as overthrowing Middle Eastern tyrants and confronting the Iranian nuclear threat, America’s allies have been more bold than the administration, not less.

Romney’s Olympic gaffe may have given the British and American press license to portray him as inept, but there is no covering up the fact that Obama entered office determined to distance himself from traditional allies like Britain and Israel. Indeed, he made no secret of this intention as he viewed it as part of a general policy of reversing any practice associated with his predecessor. Because George W. Bush was closely identified as a friend of Britain and Israel, Obama made it clear he was not and wound up embracing figures such as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an Islamist who has done much to thwart U.S. interests.

The point here isn’t so much where Winston is these days, though his removal from the Oval Office cannot be represented as anything but a slight, as it is what happened to the special relationship in January 2009. For all of his troubles in London the past couple of days, there’s little doubt that a Romney administration would likely not only return the bust to its rightful place of prominence but also revive the alliances with Britain and Israel.

Read Less

Voters and Romney’s Mormon Faith

There’s been some concern that Republican-leaning evangelical voters might be hesitant to vote for Mitt Romney because of his religion. But the latest Pew Research Center survey found little justification for that theory:

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 28-July 9, 2012, among 2,973 adults, including 2,373 registered voters, finds that 60 percent of voters are aware that Romney is Mormon, virtually unchanged from four months ago, during the GOP primaries.

The vast majority of those who are aware of Romney’s faith say it doesn’t concern them. Fully eight-in-ten voters who know Romney is Mormon say they are either comfortable with his faith (60 percent) or that it doesn’t matter to them (21 percent).

Oddly enough, more voters (60 percent) correctly identify Romney’s religion as Mormon than (49 percent) correctly identify Obama’s religion as Christian. Seventeen percent still say Obama is Muslim, a statistic that the media always loves to jump on as “proof” of public stupidity.

Read More

There’s been some concern that Republican-leaning evangelical voters might be hesitant to vote for Mitt Romney because of his religion. But the latest Pew Research Center survey found little justification for that theory:

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 28-July 9, 2012, among 2,973 adults, including 2,373 registered voters, finds that 60 percent of voters are aware that Romney is Mormon, virtually unchanged from four months ago, during the GOP primaries.

The vast majority of those who are aware of Romney’s faith say it doesn’t concern them. Fully eight-in-ten voters who know Romney is Mormon say they are either comfortable with his faith (60 percent) or that it doesn’t matter to them (21 percent).

Oddly enough, more voters (60 percent) correctly identify Romney’s religion as Mormon than (49 percent) correctly identify Obama’s religion as Christian. Seventeen percent still say Obama is Muslim, a statistic that the media always loves to jump on as “proof” of public stupidity.

But in fact, religion doesn’t seem to have a major influence over who people vote for, according to Pew. Though it does seem to impact voter enthusiasm:

Comfort with Romney’s faith, however, is related to the enthusiasm of Republican support for his candidacy. Among Republican and Republican-leaning voters who say they are comfortable with Romney being Mormon, 44 percent back him strongly. Among those who are uncomfortable with it, just 21 percent say they back him strongly.

Romney hasn’t spent much time talking about his religion, and according to Pew, there is little reason for him to do so. Just 16 percent of voters say they want to know more about Romney’s faith — and it’s probably safe to assume most of them work at the New York Times.

Read Less

British Press Pile On Romney

The British press had knives out for Mitt Romney before he even arrived in London, but the pile-on over his Olympics comment and some other (questionable) gaffes has still been surprisingly excessive. Says Piers Morgan on Romney’s Olympics remark: “He was just speaking the truth which can sometimes be rather unpalatable.” Morgan defended the candidate on CNN (via HotAir):

The issue isn’t whether Romney’s comments were accurate; it’s whether they were appropriate. Clearly the Brits didn’t think so, and that’s what counts. The Obama campaign is loving this, since it plays right into the whole “Romney is Bush” theme — voters don’t really want America to be despised in Europe like it was under G.W., right? Forget the fact that Obama’s insults have been far worse in degree: removing Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office, giving the Queen an iPod full of First Family photos, etc. He’s still a liberal Democrat, which apparently gets him some leeway with the British press.

Read More

The British press had knives out for Mitt Romney before he even arrived in London, but the pile-on over his Olympics comment and some other (questionable) gaffes has still been surprisingly excessive. Says Piers Morgan on Romney’s Olympics remark: “He was just speaking the truth which can sometimes be rather unpalatable.” Morgan defended the candidate on CNN (via HotAir):

The issue isn’t whether Romney’s comments were accurate; it’s whether they were appropriate. Clearly the Brits didn’t think so, and that’s what counts. The Obama campaign is loving this, since it plays right into the whole “Romney is Bush” theme — voters don’t really want America to be despised in Europe like it was under G.W., right? Forget the fact that Obama’s insults have been far worse in degree: removing Churchill’s bust from the Oval Office, giving the Queen an iPod full of First Family photos, etc. He’s still a liberal Democrat, which apparently gets him some leeway with the British press.

The press has taken to calling Romney’s trip #Romneyshambles, and is now basically just creating stories out of thin air. One of the silliest ones so far has to be the Independent’s speculation that he forgot Labor Leader Ed Miliband’s name:

Romney also faced further embarrassment after he appeared to forget the name of Labour Leader Ed Miliband during a press conference.

Speaking with the leader of the opposition Romney said: “Like you, Mr. Leader, I look forward to our conversations this morning … and recognise, of course, the unique relationship that exists between our nations, our commitment to common values, our commitment to peace in the world and our desire to see a stronger and growing economy.”

As many Americans know, “Mr. Leader” is a term of respect used to refer to the party leaders in Congress — i.e. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. It seems much more likely that Romney was using it in that context than that he forgot Miliband’s name. But it just goes to show you that the British press is so eager to play “gotcha” with Romney that it’s mixing up the media narratives for Republicans. Remember, it’s Bush who was supposed to be the dumb cowboy who blanked on names; Romney is supposed to be the money-obsessed robot who is too awkward for foreign diplomacy. Let’s at least get those memes straight.

Read Less

Who Can Be Trusted to Act on Iran?

With Mitt Romney arriving in Israel this weekend, the focus of the presidential campaign will turn, albeit briefly, to a discussion of the way the Obama administration has distanced itself from the Jewish state and whether the president or his challenger can be trusted to act on the Iranian nuclear threat. In an in-depth interview with Haaretz prior to his visit, Romney reiterated his familiar positions of stalwart support for Israel. He made clear his disagreement with Obama on the fundamental question of whether it is wise for the United States to seek to publicly pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. But he will get the most attention for his explicit avowal that he will not rule out the use of force against Iran.

President Obama has pushed back hard against talk about using force against Iran, but his rhetoric has been equally strong about the need to prevent the Islamist regime from gaining nuclear weapons. That leaves us pondering which of the two men is more likely to do what needs to be done to actually make good on their pledges of preventing a nuclear Iran. Romney’s position seems far less equivocal. Earlier this week in his speech to the VFW he explicitly said Iran should not be allowed to refine any uranium, a position that contradicts a weak compromise offered Iran by Obama in the P5+1 negotiations. Though Romney continues to speak of force as a last resort, he does not seem to labor under the same illusions that Obama has about the efficacy of diplomatic outreach with Iran. Nevertheless, in his column at Bloomberg today, Jeffrey Goldberg outlines the case for believing it is Obama rather than Romney who is more likely to actually take action against Iran. Though he makes some cogent points about the problems a Romney administration would face, the argument fails because it rests on the shakiest of all possible assumptions: that Obama fully understands the danger and has the will to do whatever it takes, even the use of force to stop the Iranians.

Read More

With Mitt Romney arriving in Israel this weekend, the focus of the presidential campaign will turn, albeit briefly, to a discussion of the way the Obama administration has distanced itself from the Jewish state and whether the president or his challenger can be trusted to act on the Iranian nuclear threat. In an in-depth interview with Haaretz prior to his visit, Romney reiterated his familiar positions of stalwart support for Israel. He made clear his disagreement with Obama on the fundamental question of whether it is wise for the United States to seek to publicly pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. But he will get the most attention for his explicit avowal that he will not rule out the use of force against Iran.

President Obama has pushed back hard against talk about using force against Iran, but his rhetoric has been equally strong about the need to prevent the Islamist regime from gaining nuclear weapons. That leaves us pondering which of the two men is more likely to do what needs to be done to actually make good on their pledges of preventing a nuclear Iran. Romney’s position seems far less equivocal. Earlier this week in his speech to the VFW he explicitly said Iran should not be allowed to refine any uranium, a position that contradicts a weak compromise offered Iran by Obama in the P5+1 negotiations. Though Romney continues to speak of force as a last resort, he does not seem to labor under the same illusions that Obama has about the efficacy of diplomatic outreach with Iran. Nevertheless, in his column at Bloomberg today, Jeffrey Goldberg outlines the case for believing it is Obama rather than Romney who is more likely to actually take action against Iran. Though he makes some cogent points about the problems a Romney administration would face, the argument fails because it rests on the shakiest of all possible assumptions: that Obama fully understands the danger and has the will to do whatever it takes, even the use of force to stop the Iranians.

It should be acknowledged that Goldberg is absolutely right it is always easier for a Democrat to wage war than a Republican. Most liberals will only back a military intervention launched by a Democrat, while most conservatives can be counted on to follow the flag and back any military adventure. If Romney were to order a strike on Iran, he must expect to be subjected to the same sort of opprobrium that George W. Bush got, whereas Obama would be widely applauded.

Goldberg is also right to point out that next year when it is likely that the proverbial manure will hit the fan on Iran’s nuclear program, Romney’s foreign policy team would be inexperienced. They might hesitate to attack Iran, something Bush refused to do.

But Goldberg’s assumption that Obama will act on Iran seems unsupported by anything we have observed about the president. Though he has often said the right thing about the Iranian threat, he is in marked contrast to Romney, who seems to instinctively understand the realities of the Middle East better than Obama even though he has little foreign policy experience. Obama is too much a believer in the efficacy of multi-lateral diplomacy and too eager to be loved by the Muslim world. Goldberg believes the president’s experience in building an international coalition against Iran is another reason to believe he could act effectively. But the coalition he has built is predicated on the ability of its least trustworthy members — Russia and China — to block any effective diplomacy let alone the use of force. Rather than being a reason to act, the president’s love of the United Nations and faith in diplomacy will act as a deterrent to action, not a spur.

It is entirely true we don’t really know what Romney will do once in office. He may prove to be a disappointment. But his statements about Israel demonstrate that, unlike Obama, he understands the Jewish state’s dilemma. As he rightly said in his Haaretz interview, the problem in the Middle East is not the debate about a Palestinian state but the effort to eradicate the one Jewish state. His instincts and principles on these issues are clearly good. And we already know Obama is someone whose views incline him to be less supportive of Israel even though Iran is just as much of a threat to America as it is to the Jewish state. Goldberg has every right to doubt Romney and to point out the difficulties he will face if elected, but his blind faith in Obama’s willingness to act on Iran is a leap of faith unsupported by any objective criteria.

Read Less

Gaffes Alone Won’t Stop Romney

Let’s specify that Mitt Romney probably would have been better off keeping any doubts about London’s preparations for the Olympic Games to himself. The British press jumped on the supposed insult to the United Kingdom implied in Romney’s description of the preparations being “disconcerting” and his question about whether the event would be embraced by the people of London. Prime Minister David Cameron, whose desire to emulate Barack Obama has at times bordered on the embarrassing, was just as quick in firing back at Romney by claiming that it was harder to organize an Olympics in London than “in the middle of nowhere,” which no doubt will not endear him to the people of Utah (where the GOP candidate headed up the 2002 Winter Games).

While the American media following Romney is declaring his trip a disaster even before it has gone on for one day, there’s no reason for Republicans to panic. Though the remark must be acknowledged as a gaffe, those claiming Romney has sunk the special relationship between the two countries seem to forget that supporters of a president who gave Cameron’s predecessor a set of movie DVDs that can’t be played on British systems are in no position to squawk too much about minor diplomatic errors. Yet, even if we acknowledge that Romney has once again shot himself in the foot, his gaffes are tribute to his awkward personal manner, not ignorance or incapacity. So while they are embarrassing and may get him off message, they are not the sort of thing that can do him serious political damage.

Read More

Let’s specify that Mitt Romney probably would have been better off keeping any doubts about London’s preparations for the Olympic Games to himself. The British press jumped on the supposed insult to the United Kingdom implied in Romney’s description of the preparations being “disconcerting” and his question about whether the event would be embraced by the people of London. Prime Minister David Cameron, whose desire to emulate Barack Obama has at times bordered on the embarrassing, was just as quick in firing back at Romney by claiming that it was harder to organize an Olympics in London than “in the middle of nowhere,” which no doubt will not endear him to the people of Utah (where the GOP candidate headed up the 2002 Winter Games).

While the American media following Romney is declaring his trip a disaster even before it has gone on for one day, there’s no reason for Republicans to panic. Though the remark must be acknowledged as a gaffe, those claiming Romney has sunk the special relationship between the two countries seem to forget that supporters of a president who gave Cameron’s predecessor a set of movie DVDs that can’t be played on British systems are in no position to squawk too much about minor diplomatic errors. Yet, even if we acknowledge that Romney has once again shot himself in the foot, his gaffes are tribute to his awkward personal manner, not ignorance or incapacity. So while they are embarrassing and may get him off message, they are not the sort of thing that can do him serious political damage.

There are serious questions to be asked about the London Olympics, including the wisdom of the massive expenditure of funds at a time when Britain is suffering through austerity budgets as well as the fact that almost all Olympic hosts are generally left worse off than before they started. But because Romney is an unrepentant Olympic booster, he is probably the last person to pose such questions.

This kerfuffle does once again illustrate his capacity for running his mouth when he should keep it shut. Throughout the primary campaign we saw that the GOP candidate had the capacity to sometimes say far too much. Though a serious thinker about policy, he lacks the natural politician’s instinct to say what should be said at times as well as the same ability to avoid unguarded utterances. Obama’s cool and scripted responses have proven that avoiding gaffes is no guarantee of wisdom. But Romney’s team must come to terms with the fact that their man is always going to be vulnerable to moments like these. No amount of insulation from the press is going to stop him from saying things like this again.

But unless Romney liberates Poland as Gerald Ford did in a 1976 debate with Jimmy Carter (an example of a real policy gaffe), this sort of thing won’t do him much political damage. After all, Romney is in London for a photo opportunity and to raise money or to win British votes.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.