Mitt Romney was busy morphing into Foreign Policy Mitt, yesterday, delivering a foreign policy speech to Virginia Military Institute cadets. Having listened to that speech, I realized that there is so much “daylight” between “back-room” Mitt and “podium” Mitt, you could haul a double-wide through it. It wasn’t supposed to be like this—it was supposed to be economy! economy! economy! and jobs! jobs! jobs! until improvements in the economy this year sort of let the air out of that balloon. It was supposed to be a referendum election, now it’s a choice election. It was supposed to be a Romney “gimme” election . . .
Throughout the campaign year, Romney hasn’t had much to say about foreign policy and when he has, those efforts haven’t been unmitigated successes. His foreign policy advisors are a sort of microcosm of the “battlin’ buttheads” that populated the Bush administration—an oil and water mixture of neocon warmongers and “pork hawks” with a smattering of “we can’t solve all the world’s problems” realists. Also too, Romney doesn’t get the same faraway moon-eyed look over foreign policy that he does over domestic economic policy. A couple of his national security advisors have groused, anonymously, that they seriously doubt that he’s even read any of their carefully crafted position papers.
. . . some of these advisers, in interviews over the past two weeks in which most insisted on anonymity, say they have engaged with him so little on issues of national security that they are uncertain what camp he would fall into, and are uncertain themselves about how he would govern.
In some respects, there were no surprises today, unless you’re one of those folks who is still surprised every time Romney gives a big, substance-free speech. Romney’s latest foreign policy brainstorm is “tread heavily and carry a very big stick” and all of the bumper-sticker jingoism that goes with that mentality—phrases like a New American Century, “confidence, clarity and resolve,” and “peace through strength” abound. Daniel Larison coined the phrase “omnidirectional belligerence” to describe Romney’s position—IMO it does quite nicely.
When describing the current administration the coin is flipped to: “leading from behind”, and “hope is not a strategy.” But neither is cowboy rhetoric a strategy, Mr Romney. One of the most glaring revelations is the fact that there is actually little-to-no “daylight” between Obama’s national security and foreign policy and Romney’s, as far as I can see.
Under Obama, the US has provided Israel with record levels of security assistance, including aid for rocket defenses, and our defense and intelligence cooperation has never been better.
Obama has forged an international coalition that is punishing Tehran economically and isolating the Iranian government effectively. Romney promises “new sanctions” on top of the historically draconian sanctions that Obama has imposed. Obama has never taken a military intervention to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon off the table.
A few days ago, Michèle Flournoy, Colin Kahl and Marc Lynch, co-wrote a CNN Op-Ed that very accurately describes Romney’s penchant for a disastrously muddled foreign policy approach:
He [Romney] has tacked between supporting “freedom” and fanning fears of Islamism, without giving any sign that he understands the complexities of this volatile region. His criticism of the president is similarly erratic: sometimes accusing Obama of not doing enough to support emerging democracies, and, at other times, seemingly critiquing him for doing too much to support democracy in places such as Egypt.
Romney’s declarations on the Middle East have been heavy on bold declarations of “leadership” but light on explanation. Romney’s claim that his brash rhetoric will restore order to the region is naive, if not dangerous. Indeed, the last time the United States enjoyed his brand of “leadership,” we found ourselves trapped in Iraq, besieged by record levels of anti-Americanism and confronting an ascendant al Qaeda.
And this stinging indictment:
The fact that Romney’s approach to the Middle East is all swagger and no substance should come as little surprise. After all, Romney backed the war in Iraq, the biggest foreign policy disaster in a generation, and his advisers—the people who would populate the national security establishment in a Romney administration—are a Who’s Who of the war’s architects. Not only did that war cost more than 4,400 American lives, leave more than 32,000 Americans wounded and cost taxpayers nearly $1 trillion—it empowered Iran and Syria and undermined U.S. credibility in the region and around the globe.
The Obama administration has spent the past four years trying and, in many cases, succeeding at repairing some of that catastrophic damage. Romney has shown no evidence that he is anything more than a demogogue with an uneven skill set. The man should be on the speaker’s circuit not serving as Commander-in-Chief.
President Bill Clinton, speaking at this year’s Democratic Convention, voiced many sentiments about the Republican Presidential Campaign that Democrats were all longing to hear. Among them was this hands-down winner:
When Congressman Ryan looked into that TV camera and attacked President Obama’s Medicare savings as “the biggest, coldest power play,” I did not know whether to laugh or cry. Key cuts that $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of medicare savings that he had in his own budget. It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.
Undeterred, Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan gave a speech in Colorado yesterday that is no less “brassy.” Ryan’s job, yesterday, was to talk up Romney/Ryan foreign policy expertise (Oxymoron Alert) and bromance the military at the Air Force Academy and Fort Carson. Here’s what Paul’s been keeping under his “foreign policy hat” . . .
Ryan cited the protests in the Middle East as evidence that Obama’s foreign policy has failed there, saying it “looks like Tehran in 1979, but in about a dozen capitals throughout the world.” (Can’t get away from that Jimmy Carter meme).
You can turn on the TV and look and see how the Obama foreign policy is blowing up in our faces.
In Colorado Springs, home of the Air Force Academy and Fort Carson, Ryan promised:
We’re going to rebuild this military and stop apologizing for the greatness of this country.
Now I wonder why the Greatest Show Military on Earth would need rebuilding . . . ? Could it be that some Republican Commander-in-Chief and his merry men embroiled the military in not one but TWO neocon wetdreams that wound out for a decade? squandering blood and treasure and global credibility? Chickenhawk Ryan has big brass ones and a very short memory.
I’m no policy wonk but it’s pretty obvious to me that some of these “costs of war” resulting from our neocon escapades in Iraq and Afghanistan might, possibly, have contributed to anything that’s “blowing up in our faces” today . . .
Here are just some of the “costs of war” tabulated by costsofwar.org, as of January, 2012:
• Putting together the conservative numbers of war dead, in uniform and out, brings the total to 286,006. A more realistic minimal estimate is 298,000.
• Indirect deaths from the wars, including those related to malnutrition, damaged health infrastructure, and environmental degradation, may far outnumber deaths from combat. While these deaths are difficult to count due to factors such as lack of comparable baseline mortality figures, a 2008 survey by The Geneva Declaration Secretariat estimates that assuming a ratio of four indirect deaths to one direct death in contemporary conflicts would not be unreasonable. This would put the death toll at five times 181,000, or 905,000.
• Millions of people have been displaced indefinitely and are living in grossly inadequate conditions. As of March 2012, the number of war refugees and displaced persons—7,424,780—is equivalent to all of the people of Connecticut and Oregon fleeing their homes.
• The wars have been accompanied by erosions in civil liberties at home and human rights violations abroad.
• The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades, some costs not peaking until mid-century. Many of the wars’ costs are invisible to Americans, buried in a variety of budgets, and so have not been counted or assessed. For example, while most people think the Pentagon war appropriations are equivalent to the wars’ budgetary costs, the true numbers are twice that, and the full economic cost of the wars much larger yet. Conservatively estimated, the war bills already paid and obligated to be paid as of June 2011 are $3.2 trillion in constant dollars. A more reasonable estimate puts the number at nearly $4 trillion.
• As with former US wars, the costs of paying for veterans’ care into the future will be a sizable portion of the full costs of the war.
• While we know how many US soldiers have died in the wars (over 6,500), what is startling is what we don’t know about the levels of injury and illness in those who have returned from the wars. New disability claims continue to pour into the VA, with over 675,000 disability claims registered with the VA as of September, 2011.  Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been identified.
• The ripple effects on the US economy have also been significant, including job loss and interest rate increases, and those effects have been underappreciated.
• While it was promised that the US invasions would bring democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq, both continue to rank low in global rankings of political freedom, with warlords continuing to hold power in Afghanistan with US support, and Iraqi communities more segregated today than before by gender and ethnicity as a result of the war.
Now. Tell me again whose fault this is? and how you and Stench plan to make it better? Through strength? How manly . . .
Americans, if you have a heart or a mind or a soul or a conscience or anything left in your bank account, make sure, on Election Day, that the only way these clueless amateurs ever see the inside of the Oval Office is with a Visitor’s Pass. PLEASE!
Americans have more confidence in President Barack Obama to deal with a crisis in the Middle East than they do Republican Mitt Romney, though they are losing faith in the president’s handling of terrorism.
By a margin of 49 percent to 38 percent, respondents to a Bloomberg National Poll say Obama would be better suited to cope with unforeseen events in the volatile region.
The poll, coming two weeks after Romney assailed Obama’s response to protests in Libya and Egypt, offers little evidence the Republican’s foreign policy critique is boosting his candidacy.
Romney is seeking to capitalize on turmoil in the Middle East, ranging from strains in the U.S.-Israel alliance over a showdown with Iran to violent protests in the once-authoritarian countries that embraced democracy in the “Arab spring.”
Since the Democrats effectively disarmed the Republican lock on an image of toughness in the face of terrorism, the old PNAC crowd and their allies haven’t been able to do much other than gripe from the margins and express their desire for further foreign piratical adventures to anybody who’s still listening.
This has been reflected in Francophile draft-dodger Mitt Romney’s tendency to slip into his public pap-burblings his wish to oversee an “American Century”—most recently in an interview today for the Daily Caller:
In foreign policy, I am guided by one overwhelming conviction: This century must be an American Century. In an American Century, America has the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world.
Form an orderly queue over there for the dancing rainbow-farting ponies dole-out.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney took a shot at President Barack Obama late Monday night after it was reported that the president has attended fewer than half of his daily intelligence briefings.
I dunno. It seems to me that if you have a competent staff, actually bothering to, you know, read daily copies of these briefings and listen to their advice rather than chortling over books on goat husbandry and dismissing those advisers with “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now” is probably a step up the scale of administrative competence, but what do I know? Dick has the track record—amirite? Boggle now as he performs a double pike with full pirouette to segue into another hoary campaign talking point:
“If President Obama were participating in his intelligence briefings on a regular basis then perhaps he would understand why people are so offended at his efforts to take sole credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden,” Cheney told The Daily Caller in an email through a spokeswoman.
I won’t respond to such blatant trolling by expressing my wishes for the just fate to befall this revolting shameless war criminal, but it can’t come to soon.
After the slating Joe Biden’s taken from the RW blogs in the last week or so, with their obviously well-intentioned advice that the Obama campaign should ditch him in favor of Hillary, I finally found the time and headspace to sit down and watch this speech of his to the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar earlier this year and give it the undivided attention it deserves.
I found it helpful in terms of my own bereavements over the years (and one notable recent near-bereavement).
It also made me realize that one thing I look for in friends is emotional intelligence—and also in leaders, where it’s a very rare commodity. It’s even rarer to be able to express it so eloquently in unscripted words.
As the dust settles from the #RomneyShambles Grand World Tour, those left snorting in Mitt’s wake are finding reasons to be grateful for his visit, some of which border on the miraculous.
The British Government thanks a black-hat baddie who was obviously born to the role for rallying a hitherto less-than-enthused and hypercritical populace behind the London Olympics. Wherever Mitt went, he was greeted by wildly cheering crowds. For instance, traffic congestion meant that he and his entourage had to walk down Grosvenor Place to a meeting at the Irish Embassy.
“Hey, Mitt—shake. HAHAHA gotcha!”
“Oops. I can’t believe you just did that,” says Mr. Gotcha’s companion. Keep your eyes on the man in green.
Here he is again. I have a suspicion he may feature in a few photoshops before the campaign’s done.
The accompanying headlines? The Daily Mail wasn’t untypical:
Mitt Romney’s long-planned summer fundraising bashes in England and Israel made the itinerary for his getmetheh-e-doublehockeysticksoutofhere vacation look a little bare and blatant, so he told his staff to spin that Rolodex and figure out some more stops to pad it out. France was out of the question—too much of a reminder of the two years he spent on mission there in his youth, when he managed to convert two people before nearly taking out a bunch more in a car crash, plus it’s now run by socialists who’re being mean to banksters, so the optics wouldn’t be good and the reception likely less than warm. A visit to Germany was mooted, but didn’t pan out, and in any case would have invited too many unfavorable comparisions with President Obama’s barnstorming visit in 2008. Switzerland and the Cayman Islands were also off limits, for reasons that should be obvious. Then Lech Walesa came to the rescue with an invite, so the final leg ends up being a two-day stay in sunny Poland.
Even before he flees American soil, Mitt’s managed to cause a diplomatic incident. He can largely get away with spinning his own web of reality from others’ words in America, but the rest of the world can sometimes set more exacting standards. The leaders he’ll be meeting may be considerably more guarded in what they say to him for fear he’ll end up citing them publicly and “reinterpreting” their words to fit what he wants them to imply after his run-in with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr:
WASHINGTON—In the span of one morning, top Mitt Romney surrogate John Sununu referred to President Obama as dumb and stupid, called the Chicago political culture from which he came “corrupt,” brought up Obama’s admitted use of marijuana as a kid in Hawaii, resurfaced the name of Tony Rezko—the jailed financier with ties to Obama—and then questioned the president’s Americanness.
“This guy doesn’t understand how to create jobs. So there is no surprise—there should be because of that statement no surprise on why he failed so miserably over the last four years, in terms of job creation,” Sununu said on Fox.
“He has no idea how the American system functions, and we shouldn’t be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, another set of years in Indonesia,” he said. “And, frankly, when he came to the U.S. he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure, and then got into politics in Chicago.”
Then it seems the effects of the bottle of Jack Daniels he’d imbibed before breakfast began to wear off:
It was a tour-de-force performance for the former New Hampshire governor, whose demonstrated willingness to throw punches has made him the wartime consigliere for the Romney campaign. But moments after Sununu said on a conference call Tuesday morning that he wished Obama “would learn how to be an American,” he tried to clarify and downplay the remark.
“What I thought I said but I guess I didn’t say is that the president has to learn the American formula for creating business,” Sununu said. “The American formula for creating business is not to have the government create business.”
This no doubt dovetails with the comprehension conundrum Tim F. is posing over at Balloon Juice at the moment regarding wingnuts’ desperate attempts to wilfully mis-parse President Obama’s recent Roanoke speech:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
Exam time. What was Obama saying that the individual business owner did not build? Discuss.
My honest response would be that Obama would have left himself less open to misrepresentation if he’d said “Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build those. Somebody else made those happen.”
My realistic one would be that those shrieking about it all over the show just make shit up on an hourly basis anyway, so nevermind.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised by anything Dick Cheney says, but sweet, weepin’ Jeebus:
“When I think about the kind of individual I want in the Oval Office in that moment of crisis, who has to make those key decisions, some of them life-and-death decisions, some of them decisions as commander-in-chief, who has the responsibility for sending some of our young men and women into harm’s way, that man is Mitt Romney,” Cheney said, according to The Associated Press.
Let’s review, shall we? The largest terrorist attack in US history occurred on Bush-Cheney’s watch, and they responded so ineptly that the cornered mastermind was able to escape to Pakistan while US troops were ensnared in the longest war in US history. Then Bush-Cheney trumped up another war with a country that had fuck-all to do with the 9/11 attacks, a war that killed tens of thousands of people and drained the US Treasury to no good purpose (unless you’re Halliburton).
And now the wizened old reptile who orchestrated this world-historical clusterfuck has the unmitigated gall to not only dis the dude who is cleaning up his fucking mess, but to render an opinion on who else is fit to send “our young men and women into harm’s way”?
Now we know why Cheney has a bum ticker: His heart was overworked from a lifetime of trying to circulate blood through his freakishly massive balls. Chutzpah? That doesn’t even begin to cover it. Lack of self awareness? There isn’t a negative scale large enough to capture it, even if it extends into infinity.
I’m pretty much a free speech absolutist, but I would make an exception in Cheney’s case. He should be fitted with a shock collar that zaps him every time he utters the words “9/11” or “crisis” or “war” or “commander-in-chief” or “decisions” or “harm’s way.” Better yet, it should just zap the bastard if he opens his yap at all.
Romney’s next fundraising stop: the federal pen in Butler, North Carolina, where he will dine in the prison mess with Bernie Madoff and receive Madoff’s glowing endorsement for his financial acumen.
It looks like right-wing blogs gave MSNBC host Chris Hayes a bit of a beating for making what I don’t even think was all that dramatic a statement regarding the language we use to refer to fallen US Servicepersons:
“Why do I feel so uncomfortable about the word ‘hero’?” Hayes said. “I feel uncomfortable about the word hero because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism, you know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.”
Okay—he’s posing this as a question he isn’t even comfortable asking, and he admits he doesn’t even mean to offend anyone at all by asking. And the idea that the language we use to refer to war colors our impression of it and lends it glamour is by no means a new idea. Nonetheless, an opportunity arose to pound on Hayes for the thought-crime of not readily lending the highest encomiums of the English language to the commemorated war dead, and to smear The Left in general as “Probably not Sufficiently Respectful of Our Men and Women in Uniform Dead or Alive” also, too. And so—to the outrage factory! And also, to the “apology store”. (To Hayes’ credit, he gives excellent apology. There’s not a “sorry if anyone was offended” air to it at all. )
The pixelated tone-poem of the internet kerfuffle is probably not the ideal medium for discussion of the attitudes and language we use to discuss war, its consequences, and the multifaceted ways it can be viewed through the media prism. I don’t know if a blog post can adequately cover the distance between the Gettysburg address’ admonition to the living to carry on the fight in the honor of the fallen, and the recent-times questioning of our current wars: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” It has as much to do with the cheapening of our sights and expansion of our vision of what war can accomplish, as it does our ability to confront the complexities of war through a far greater media exposure. We are removed. We are also sometimes ensnared—involved in the question of why and how war is engaged—and the servicemembers are erased in the debate, or used as examples. Their reality is eclipsed.
I don’t know where to go with that—so I’m just going to relate a story about my mom getting arrested.
I could still be bitter about Powell’s Show’n'Tell presentation for the UN with the actual vial of crack he bought just a block away from the White House anthrax vial and the Diorama of Doom showing the limits of Near Eastern meteorological technology cunning mobile biowarfare labs that most likely were no such thing, but that’s not me. I forgive people for spewing the kind of utter nonsense they consider to be their jobs, if—if--if I have reason to suspect they might be retired enough or done with the nonsense enough to actually level with us. I got that feeling from Powell when he endorsed Obama last time, and I more or less still think Powell is not the worst of people. And he may even know what he’s talking about.
So that said—C’mon, Mitt. Because I don’t think that guy even has the credibility I’m willing to front Powell. (No, read the “that guy” thing. It’s Romney on about Russia. So precious! He’s like Sarah Palin with a bigger house to see Russia from.).
The Romney campaign’s recent hire of Richard Grenell was met with a little controversy for a couple of reasons—for one, he had a bit of a mean sense of humor on Twitter (although that was easily deleted, if not entirely forgotten) and for another, he was openly gay. It looks like it was the latter detail that lead to Grenell’s resignation today, as Jennifer Rubin reports:
Richard Grenell, the openly gay spokesman recently hired to sharpen the foreign policy message of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, has resigned in the wake of a full-court press by anti-gay conservatives.
In a statement obtained by Right Turn, Grenell says:
I have decided to resign from the Romney campaign as the Foreign Policy and National Security Spokesman. While I welcomed the challenge to confront President Obama’s foreign policy failures and weak leadership on the world stage, my ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign. I want to thank Governor Romney for his belief in me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team.
According to sources familiar with the situation, Grenell decided to resign after being kept under wraps during a time when national security issues, including the president’s ad concerning Osama bin Laden, had emerged front and center in the campaign.
This is really quite disappointing. The last week or so has focused attention on Romney’s foreign policy views, and Grenell might have been able to, well, do the thing he was presumably hired for and help the campaign craft a consistent message if the social conservatives could actually bring themselves to view a person based on his merits, not his identity, and if the Romney campaign wasn’t—how should I put this?
Holy crap, this Obama guy! First he stone-cold orders the death of Osama bin Laden after Bush and Romney both said it was no big deal, and now he jets off to Afghanistan to wrap that clusterfuck up in a high-profile way. Who does he think he is? The president?
Those of you who’ve read some of my earlier posts about the Daily Mail‘s role as a transatlantic “news” laundering operation will know that I’m hardly a disinterested party where its baleful influence on politics is concerned.
Lest you think I’ve gone unnecessarily ad hominem in kicking off this post by implying that Toby Harnden is some sort of cynical partisan hack, let’s take a look at Harnden’s own words on this subject back in July last year:
In Defense of Hacks
Whereas our American counterparts have long viewed themselves as comparable to lawyers and doctors, we British hacks still see ourselves as practitioners of a grubbing craft rather than members of an upstanding profession. (The public, which views us as on a par with real estate agents, prostitutes and perhaps even criminals, tends to agree.) As recently as the mid-1990s, it was standard practice for British reporters to spend three hours over a liquid lunch in the pub before returning to file their copy. Stories were sometimes pronounced “too good to check.” When seeking an additional element of confirmation on one story, I was told that it was “close enough for journalism” and that a bit of artful conjecture would do. An editor once dictated a quotation to me and then, winking, offered the opinion that he was sure my contacts were good enough to find someone to say it anonymously. My deadline was five minutes away.
While the American press has certainly had its share of similar disgraces, it is true that American newspaper articles are in the main more accurate and better-researched than British ones; the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal was not wrong when it ventured that Fleet Street has “long had a well-earned global reputation for the blind-quote, single-sourced story that may or may not be true.” But stories in the American press also tend to be tedious, overly long, and academic, written for the benefit of po-faced editors and Pulitzer panels rather than readers.
For all their faults, British “rags” are more vibrant, entertaining, opinionated, and competitive than American newspapers. We break more stories, upset more people, and have greater political impact. (The BBC, with its decidedly American outlook on the news, has become increasingly irrelevant as its state-sponsored dominance has been challenged by Murdoch’s Sky News.)
The Romney Campaign seemed to have walked straight out of the cold war era into a phone conference intended to stress Willard’s foreign policy creds. The results were, well, a little weird. Kinda like Willard come to think of it!
In comments that were eerily reminiscent of John McCain’s frequent gaffes in regards to Czechoslovakia, Romney’s surrogates warned of the “Soviet” threat and Obama’s failure to protect the free world:
Obama is “withdrawing from leading the free world in maintaining stability around the world,” Lehman said. “What Obama calls ‘leading from behind.’”
One of the worst examples, according to Lehman, is happening at the top of the world.
“We’re seeing the Soviets pushing into the Arctic with no response from us. In fact, the only response is to announce the early retirement of the last remaining icebreaker.”
Prosper warned Obama was abandoning America’s eastern European allies — some of which haven’t existed for decades.
“You know, Russia is another example where we give and Russia gets and we get nothing in return,” Prosper said. “The United States abandoned its missile defense sites in Poland and Czechoslovakia, yet Russia does nothing but obstruct us, or efforts in Iran and Syria.”
The conference call, which was apparently timed to rebut Veep Biden’s speech today touting Obama’s actual foreign policy successes, didn’t do a whole lot to increase my confidence in Willard’s potential foreign policy leadership. But no doubt Snowflake Snooki will be all over that push by the “Soviets” into the Arctic!