Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Careful What You Say!

“Loose lips sink ships!” That was important advice during the two great wars. It was drilled into military personnel. It should be drilled into political candidates as well. Mitt Romney appears to have a bad case of loose lips and, if not corrected, it could sink his ship.
by Charlie Leck

The presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, made the following two statements in Israel during his stop there. He must learn something quickly about the power of words on the international scene and how his comments must be carefully considered. The following two comments came almost immediately upon the heels of his critical comments about the organization and management of the Olympic Games in the host country, the United Kingdom.

“We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so.” [Mitt Romney]

“If you learn anything from the economic history of the world, it’s this: Culture makes all the difference…  As I come here and look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things. One, I recognized the hand of providence in selecting this place.” [Mitt Romney, in Israel, to a fund-raising gathering.]

Saeb Erekat, an aide to Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, said of Mitt Romney’s remarks to a gathering of his wealthy supporters: “It is a racist statement, and this man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation… It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people. He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority.”

Mr. Erekat’s reaction says enough about how the Romney statement concerning Israel’s culture can upset a huge population of non-Jews and non-Christians. When read carefully it also expresses feelings of faith and religion that may be dangerous on the international scene.

Criticism of Romney's remarks came from as far away as China. There, the official Xinhua News Agency called the remarks “hawkish.” The agency called the Romney comment “…irresponsible if he just meant to appeal to voters at home.”

The second of the two statements above seems, at first blush, to be the most dangerous of the two. It is, however, the first that frightens me the most; for it takes up the careless thinking of the George W. Bush administration that drew us into two unnecessary and immensely expensive wars. I think no President should ever carelessly utter the following: “We should employ any and all measures…”

We were carelessly drawn into Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan by “any and all measures” thinking. We need no more of it.

“If this seems like foreign policy out of a twentieth century history book – or the George W. Bush neocon playbook – that’s because it is. A President Romney wouldn’t bring about ‘another American century.’ Rather, he would return us to some of the worst policies of the last century.”

In the column, vanden Heuvel expresses brilliantly the real questions that America’s foreign policy ought to be addressing and that Romney appears bent on ignoring.

Romney’s first outing on the international scene has not gone well. Columnist Eugene Robinson called it “gaffepalooza!” He will likely learn from it. Anyway, one would hope so!

In England, Romney spoke and called the problems with the preparation for the games there “disconcerting.” It does not take a wise man to recognize that such a comment might cause problems within British political circles and among the general population of the United Kingdom.

Romney’s goal in going to the UK was to highlight the strength of the bonds between that nation and ours. Mr. Romney’s trip was also supposed to bolster his foreign policy credentials. It’s done anything but. He’ll need to learn that “loose lips sink ships.”

These stumbles will now probably have a major impact on the selection of his running mate. I think his handlers will now turn in the direction of someone who can carefully and intellectually express a sensible and careful international policy. This is part of the enjoyment of watching these political developments. Let’s see who now emerges as a vice presidential candidate for Mr. Romney.

Now, mind you, Republicans are reacting to the Romney mistakes abroad with total disinterest -- or, at least, they say so. They know that only about one percent (Yup! That’s not a typo!) – only one percent – of the voters care a hang about foreign policy. They still say that it is “only the economy” that matters and the unemployment that ensues from it. So, they say, forget about finding a foreign policy vice president. Hmm! It is that kind of thinking that gave us the world problems we face now!

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