Watching Republican presidential wannabe Mitt Romney “debate” foreign policy with President Obama in Boca Raton, Fla., last night was like watching two differently prepared people talk about another country.
Imagine one person who’s called on to give a talk about France to a club, when all he knows about the country is what he’s read in magazines, seen on TV and heard from a relative who vacationed there years ago.
Then imagine a second person discussing France for the club, only this one is fluent in French, studied at the Sorbonne for a year and later, as a U.S. diplomat, spent four years living and working there.
No comparison, period.
Throughout the debate, Romney spouted talking points and recited rote-learned, no-new-news factoids such as “Pakistan has hundreds of nuclear weapons” and “I like American cars!”
Although Romney repeatedly complained about Obama attacking him, Romney saw fit to repeat a favorite, but groundless and thoroughly debunked, right-wing meme that Obama had gone on an overseas “apology tour.” Obama was right back in Romney’s face, saying that’s untrue and challenging him to provide proof.
We’ve watched and listened to U.S. leaders discussing foreign affairs since John Foster Dulles was President Dwight Eisenhower’s secretary of state, right through to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In all that time we can only recall one major-party presidential candidate with such a shallow, tenuous grip on the world around us and how best to interact with that world. That was another conservative Republican, George W. Bush, who not coincidentally surrounded himself with neocon war hawks — and who turned out to be the Worst President in U.S. history.
In keeping with his now well-established M.O., Romney suddenly embraced, endorsed and approved Obama foreign policy decisions that he questioned, criticized and condemned only months ago, some only days ago.
For example, Romney is suddenly A-OK with Obama’s mid-2014 deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Last year to early this year, Romney said having a timetable was wrong. Then, he said having a timetable for withdrawal was OK but announcing a deadline was not. That lasted until last night. Regardless of what Romney said, polls show it would suit upwards of 60 percent of Americans if all our troops were being brought home right now — most likely the impetus for Romney’s latest flip-flop on that issue.
But what does Romney really believe and what would he really do about withdrawing troops from Afghanistan if he was president? His neocon advisers would almost certainly insist on another troop surge instead of a withdrawal, maybe with an invasion of Iran thrown in for good measure.
Richard Nixon won the White House in 1968 in part on his assurance he had a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War quickly. Instead, Nixon stepped up bombing, sent in more troops and added a new dimension: secret bombing campaigns in Laos and Cambodia. The Vietnam nightmare didn’t end until after Nixon had won a second term, resigned in disgrace, Gerald Ford took over and Congress cut off funding.
So, would Romney stick with his latest position on ending our military involvement in Afghanistan? Or, would he be as dishonest as Nixon, changing his position again once safely in the White House?
There is no telling. But given how many times Romney has switched positions on every issue except raising taxes on the rich — the only real conviction besides winning the election he seems to have — we feel certain our troops, probably many more of them, would remain in Afghanistan until at least 2015.
War with Iran, anyone? We consider that a virtual certainty if Romney is elected president. His casino-owning billionaire sugar daddy, Sheldon Adelson, has pumped tens, maybe hundreds, of millions into getting Romney elected. Adelson is Jewish and a pro-Israel war hawk. Men like Adelson expect return on their investments. Men like Romney know failing to deliver return on investment can mean painful consequences — like having a billionaire backer’s money turned against him in the next election. Or, who knows, maybe something worse.
Does anyone in their right mind think a flip-flopping empty suit, sold out to a special interest hellbent on spilling Americans’ blood to prevent a possible but by no means assured future threat to another country, should be in charge of American foreign policy and commander in chief?
President Obama has done an impressively good job on foreign policy and national security. His approach is sound, sensible and consistently has produced good results — better by far than those of Ronald Reagan and both Bush presidents. What’s more, his successes have benefited all Americans and the world.
Mitt Romney has done an impressively good job of getting what he wants, whether it’s hundreds of millions of dollars, some company ripe for the gutting, a governorship or a major-party presidential nomination. The chief beneficiary of Romney’s success is and always has been Romney.
Could the better choice to serve as president for the next four years be clearer?
That Romney is so close to Obama in the polls says something distressing about millions of Americans. As happened with George W. Bush, if those people get their way we will all be sorry.