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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