Romney's "Foreign Folly" Old News at Harvard

Mitt Romney talks in Fairfax, Virginia today. At one point, Romney tried to say a few words about American Ambassador Christopher Stevens, killed in Libya on Tuesday, but was heckled by one man, who was answered by crowd chants of "USA! USA!" Romney blamed the heckler for preventing him from having a "moment of silence" for the four slain US diplomatic personnel.
While the left and right pundits assess the level of damage Mitt Romney's disastrously ill-advised intervention into the US embassy crises has done to his campaign, it is worth looking backwards a bit in time to see that for Romney, this is nothing new at all.

As the Boston Globe noted six years ago, when Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he had a similar, albeit much less tragic, "foreign folly" occur when he attempted to look tough regarding a visiting Iranian leader, Mohammed Khatami, who had come to Cambridge, Massachusetts to make an address at Harvard's Kennedy School. Romney ignored the fact that Khatami had been for a number of years as much of a reformer in Iran as one can be—short of going to civil war—and that Khatami was a political enemy, not an ally, of the new Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Globe noted that Romney, who refused the former Iranian president state-level security assistance, criticized Harvard's invitation to Khatami as "a disgrace to the memory of all Americans who have lost their lives at the hands of extremists."

Basically, Romney, who yesterday blathered absurdly about how President Obama had abandoned his obligation to protect the free speech rights of Americans, was all for denying the free listening rights of Americans wanting to hear Khatami speak at Harvard in 2006.

The language Romney used in attacking Harvard is similar to that used by Romney to criticize a US diplomatic statement issued by the Cairo Embassy on Tuesday. Romney denounced that effort to quell a building anger amongst Egyptians, upset at an American-made YouTube video which insulted Muslims:

"It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."

In both cases, Romney was attacking his opponents for "disgracefully" appeasing or apologizing to America's enemies. And in both cases, the charges and the political posturing on Romney's part were dishonest and aimed at making himself look strong and unyielding in the face of invented threats to misconstrued American values.

The Globe described the problem in 2006: "Politicians often strike foolish poses when overcome by an ambition to run for president". And then, noting that international diplomacy often requires the ability to make nuanced distinctions between one's friends and foes, the Globe said about Romney:
"Some reactionaries in [the USA] may want to obscure the stark differences between Khatami and Ahmadinejad, and Romney, who has been courting the far right of the Republican Party, may have fallen under the influence of those deliberate simplifiers."
The "deliberate simplifiers" of 2006 do not seem to have changed all that much in Romney's calculations. His inability or unwillingness to distinguish, for example, between an embassy statement denouncing (in the hope of quelling violence) an offensive film, and Romney's indictment of the Obama administration as a consequence for allegedly not supporting free speech, is an example of how boldly ludicrous the simplifier or dumbing-down of US foreign policy concerns can be.

While George W. Bush certainly got very far in his presidential career before that approach to things collapsed like the house of cards it always was, Romney seems not to have been paying any attention to the downside of the Bush simplification of US foreign policy. Instead, Romney apparently thinks he has nothing left in his pad of arguments to convince voters he's the right guy to take us back to the Dubya years (like that's a good idea), except absurdly dishonest rhetoric which has always, rightly, only earned him derision from any informed quarter.

As the Globe concluded about Romney (and this assessment, given Romney's neoconic enemies list, still seems dead on):

"Romney's muddle-headed characterizations of Khatami and Harvard suggest that he has been prepping at the Dick Cheney school of statecraft."

So does Romney's dumbass attack on US diplomatic personnel.

Comments