Innocence Abroad: The Romney Road Trip

Posted July 29, 2012 on 5:20 pm | In the category Obama, Politics, Romney, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

Mitt Romney – with the unquestioning help of most of the American press – has made the presidential race almost entirely about the American economy.  Yet,  in reality the president’s power is limited in addressing domestic issues – especially when faced with a belligerent Congress unwilling to deal with any issue that might make the President look good. And for current Republican senators and representatives, that trumps national interest.

The President does, however, have considerable power in foreign affairs and traditionally has the support of the Congress on major elements of foreign policy, making a candidate’s stances on international issues more important than is generally recognized by the press and voters. Romney’s current trip abroad, which he is attempting to use to build his foreign policy credentials, takes on considerable importance in helping determine his ability to keep America’s best interests in mind.

His first stop in London was not reassuring. He insulted the Brits by questioning their ability to host the Olympics, did not appear to know the name of the leader of the Labor party, Ed  Miliband, when he met with him, broke an unwritten rule  by bragging to the world that he had met with the head of the secretive MI6, and spent a good part of his time there walking back his public remarks. The British press headlined him various ways, but “Mitt the Twit” was one not atypical reference.

He then headed for Israel where he will hold a major fund raiser with the help of Sheldon Adelson, famous for having donated tens of millions to the Gingrich campaign and now pouring similar millions into Romney’s campaign.  Adelson’s considerable wealth was gained mostly from gambling casinos and he has been accused of illegally influencing leading politicians in Macau to gain approval of a major gambling operation there. While Romney’s interest in Adelson is at least partly financial – Adelson provides access to large donors – it is also to find a wedge issue to attract American Jewish voters who have traditionally voted for Democrats.

The question for now is what Romney will promise Israel beyond what American presidents – including Obama – have always promised, which does not include unlimited support for an Israeli attack on Iran, a step seen by U.S. defense and foreign policy professionals as premature and, for many, counter productive.  American presidents have always supported  Israel’s right to defend itself and that has not changed under Obama. So it is hard to see what Romney can add to the debate, but given his history of unpredictable and irresponsible remarks, it is worrisome to consider the possibilities. American politicians are frequently tempted to define our national interest in terms of Israel’s national interest and they are simply not always the same. So, for instance, while it might be in Israel’s national interest for the U.S. to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities it is most certainly not in the national interest of the U.S. Let’s hope Romney remembers that crucial difference.

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London Olympics 1948 and 2012

Posted July 29, 2012 on 2:53 pm | In the category Politics, Sports | by Mackenzie Brothers

London 1948.  The last World War had only been over for three years.  To a significant  extent London still lay in ruins as a result of that war and it was a daring idea to ask a country that had been bankrupted and almost destroyed by an aggressive enemy  to host an Olympic Games.  And yet the United Kingdom welcomed  the choice by an Olympic committee that had not yet become  a group of old boys, most of whom had dubious  expertise in the area of amateur sports.   After all, this was not an overly expensive event and  the UK deserved the chance to show that it had survived the war with its basic values intact.    Thus London hosted the Olympics and  put them on in venues which, for the most part, had survived the bombings well enough to be used for sporting events.   All the participants were really amateurs, were asked to bring their own  personal items for the dormitory rooms that they slept in, were fed fn large part by donated food, and of course received no money for any medals they might win.  Security was provided by the Boy Scouts.  Film of the opening ceremonies capture the excitement when  a single runner ran up a staircase with a torch and lit the  flame which seemed to carry the hope that the future would be better than the immediate past.

Skip ahead 64 years to the spectacle witnessed on  tv by several billion people on the weekend.  It cost something like 30 million dollars, had 10,000 extras milling about in what apparently was meant to be the history of the British isles , featured an  Irish actor, dressed like one of the sleazy doctors or lawyers  from an Ibsen play and surrounded by rising polluting smokestacks while quoting from The Tempest of all things and waxing on about the edenic isle of Blake.  This eden was then highlighted by a 20 minute segment set in a gigantic hospital ward full of dancing nurses and hopping sick children.    British culture was represented by Sir Simon Rattle and the London Philharmonic attempting to play the theme song from Chariots of Fire with Rattle playing straight man to Mr. Bean.  Unfortunately the designers of this apparent nod to the British bureaucracy and humour failed to include a nod to the Ministry of Silly Walks.  Where are the Pythons when you need them?  Even the queen who was a princess soon to become a queen in 1948 agreed to make her acting debut in  a comic role with James Bond that involved her jumping out of a helicopter.   And later was that really Daniel Barenboim carrying in one section of the Olympic flag?   My how the mighty  lowered themselves for this spectacle.

In the Parade of Nations that interminably followed, athletes making many millions of dollars walked in alongside amateurs making nothing who had no chance of competing even half-serioiously with the millionaires.  Cannon-fodder.  How that will work out can be witnessed tomorrow when the so-called US dream team plays basketball against Tunisia.  No odds were being given by the ubiquitous gambling spots that the Tunisians would beat the US multi-millionaires.  Even at a million to one there was no chance.  Whatever happened to the Olympics of 1948?  As if to answer this question, the Olympic flame was lit this time by an enormously expensive and technically  impressive machine that  ignited a cauldron of fire that cannot be seen from outside the stadium into which almost no mortals succeeded in buying  a ticket.  That’s what has happened. The Olympics have been turned into a celebration of money and kitsch, and cannot be saved if its organizers don’t turn it back over to the amateur sportspeople and the general public who would like to see them compete beneath a flame that has a completely different meaning than it has today.






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