Mitt Romney, International Ambassador of Bad Will
A reader suggested I take a break from bashing Obama and set my sights on Mitt Romney for a change. She had a point, and I’m certainly up to the challenge. Well, it’s not much of a challenge, but I’m up to it anyhow. As I pointed out during the primaries, none of the Republican candidates looked promising, because anyone with any political sense at all would know that running against Obama was likely a suicide mission. He’s the most astute politician to come down the pike in a generation, he came out of nowhere to take the presidency right out from under Hillary Clinton’s nose in 2008. And now that he’s had four years to consolidate his position, beating him is going to be a challenge. Any Republican that seriously wants to be president is likely to wait till 2016 when Obama will be gone. That being said, the primaries are over, and Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts is the Republican sacrificial victim. Will Obama carve him into quivering lumps of human sushi this fall? (Figuratively speaking of course.) Who knows.
And just days after I started writing this post, Romney himself decided to provide grist for the mill. I am of course talking about his international tour. He chose to only visit staunch US allies, shielded himself from the press, and sallied forth to grab some easy photo opportunities and look suitably foreign policy presidential. What could go wrong? He opened his mouth. It has been almost painful to watch, like the proverbial train wreck in slow motion. First, he criticized the British preparations for the ongoing Olympics. I’m not even sure what inspired that, but it went over like a lead balloon. Then on to Israel, where he managed to insult both Israelis and Palestinians, and lie about Obama’s relationship with Israel to boot. In fact there were many serious factual errors in his insulting remarks, adding insult to injury. Then off to Poland, where Romney managed to avid offending anyone, only to have his travelling press secretary Rick Gorka utter the immortal line: “Kiss my ass; this is a holy site for the Polish people, show some respect.” Classy. Granted the reporters were being jerks, but one would think that presidential hopefuls would use people who didn’t lose their cool under a little pressure. It was a bad way to end the tour.
It wasn’t all bad of course, Romney got accolades from the places he visited, and it’s doubtful he hurt his support in the US much, if any. The Obama supporters who are chortling over Romney’s stupidity seem to have forgotten that saying incredibly stupid things hasn’t stopped previous Republicans from being elected. There was no “Dean Scream” moment, Romney’s campaign will carry on.
Still, I was genuinely frightened by some of it. First off, he seems to be completely unaware of that nature of Israel and the occupied territories. He understated Israel’s wealth considerably, and wildly overstated the Palestinian’s wealth. And he made the bizarre claim that “cultural differences” accounted for the disparity. In fact in my readings Romney apparently has made similar remarks about other countries, claiming that a disparity of wealth between them was due to “cultural differences.” The reasons for wealth disparities between nations are complex, but rarely do culture differences have much to do with it. That Romney thinks they do is at best a horribly simplistic view, and at worst reflects what can only be called racism. And I don’t think he was pandering to his base, I suspect his remarks have been genuine. And extemporaneous. I was left with the impression that he didn’t do much homework for this trip.
Moving right along, two other points. The first is fairly minor. If I’m informed correctly, he has gone from being pro-choice to being anti-choice. That seems awfully politically expedient of him. And then health care. He hates Obamacare, even though it’ almost the same as Romneycare, the health care plan he instituted while governor of Massachusetts. Then, he praises the health care system in Israel, even though it too contains features that he decries in Obamacare. Again, political expediency? Or is he that out of touch? Well, we know he’s not a man of the people after his NASCAR gaffe. In some ways that’s what scares me the most about him, he has lived a life of privilege and wealth. He was a draft evader as well, which never impresses me in someone who wants to be a leader.
Does any of it matter? I don’t really think so. Politics is completely polarized in the USA now, and deliberately so. I read an interesting article that posited that the Republicans think they can win by perusing a risky strategy of ignoring the issues and hammering on the endless “Obama isn’t a real American, Obama is a socialist, Obama is going to take away our guns” theme. The lack of undecided voters certainly bears this out. The idea being that if they win, they will have very successfully shifted the centre to the right and relabelled even today’s Democrats as out of touch leftists. If they lose, they lose nothing and can spend the next four years blaming Obama for anything that goes wrong. It’s an ugly strategy that counts on enough Americans to be panicked about having their guns taken, socialism, and Obama’s supposedly “weak” foreign policy. All Romney has to do is avoid any gaffes that will hurt his base, look vaguely presidential, and he’s golden.
So I’m not really expecting much from this election campaign. Lots of hysteria from the right, presumably to be strategically slapped down by Obama. We’ll see. The world is still going up in flames too, figurative and literal, so there could still be a surprise before the election that will change everything. I’ll be sure to blog about it.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Credit and copyright: Eccorazzi. It’s a spoof of a 1983 incident where Romney strapped his family dog on the roof of his car in a windshield protected dog carrier. For a 12 hour trip. Frankly I have mixed feelings about this. Romney dismissed critics of this incident with “They’re not happy that my dog loves fresh air.”)