SAN DIEGO, September 23, 2012 — Presidential candidate Mitt Romney continues to aggressively challenge Obama’s economic policies, but he’s been conspicuously quiet about foreign policy since being attacked by that pack of wolves called the mainstream media.
After crawling away to lick his wounds, Romney 4.0 became 3.0 once again. Sooner or later he’ll be forced to return to foreign policy. In fact, one of the three debates will key in on that theme. When the governor finally has the stomach for another round, he must not apologize for Round One.
Only a few weeks ago, our country was led to believe that November’s election would be about the economy and nothing more. Romney probably preferred that. As a successful businessman, he has much to bring to the table. And then, faster than people could repeat Joe Biden’s mindless mantra about Osama bin Laden being dead and GM being alive, an October surprise proved itself doubly surprising by showing up in September.
The bottom dropped out of America’s involvement with the Middle East. At least part of the commotion had to do with the now infamous 14 minute YouTube video for the movie Muslim Innocence and its less than flattering portrayal of the Prophet Mohammad. Romney criticized the American embassy in Egypt for attempting to calm things down by offering a condemnation of the video that sounded too much like an apology.
At a press conference one day later, Romney started out looking confident and unwilling to walk back his previous words: “The embassy in Cairo put out a statement after their grounds had been breached, Protesters were inside the grounds. They reiterated that statement after the breach. I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values.”
His speech was greeted with a barrage of interrogations that seemed almost as coordinated as the Egyptian and Libyan attacks on our embassies. Poor Romney looked like he never knew what hit him. With an awkward smile, he listened to questions that sounded more like lectures. Reporters made it clear in no uncertain terms that he had no right to openly criticize a sitting president’s foreign affairs, a position they didn’t seem to have very well fleshed out back in 2008 when candidate Obama offered generous comments about George Bush, Afghanistan, and Iraq based upon his “foreign experience” as a community organizer.
If the reporters looked like they were operating with a joint attack plan, it’s only because they were.
Not knowing that the podium mic was already on before Romney entered the room, the press corps was caught organizing their efforts, deciding who would ask which question. Such preparation in and of itself is not so unusual. Reporters will often talk amongst themselves to split up the questions. What then was the problem? Most of the questions seemed like little more than a variation of the same question. Here are two samples:
“Governor Romney, do you think, though, coming so soon after the event really has unfolded overnight was appropriate, to be weighing in on this as this crisis is unfolding in real time?”
“Governor, some people have said that you jumped the gun a little in putting that statement out last night and that you should have waited until more details were available. Do you regret having that statement come out so early before we learned about all the things that were happening?”
In all fairness to the reporters, there are differences between these two questions. One asked if Romney’s remarks were appropriate. The other asked if he regretted his statement. Yes, the balance and variety was stunning.
Others have also weighed in, including Democratic strategist Peter Fenn, who said of Romney, “He threw an incendiary bomb in the middle of a horrible and life-threatening international situation. This is not the mark of a leader but rather the mark of a desperate candidate who puts his political survival above those who serve this country. In short, it is his actions and words that are “disgraceful” (USA Today, September 12, 2012).
It’s always fun to hear a political strategist accuse a candidate from the opposite party of being political.
Was Romney being political by commenting on the embassy’s apology? Of course he was being political. He’s a politician. That’s what politicians do. They engage in politics. But politician in and of itself is not a dirty word. Mitt Romney has an election in less than two months. Either he or one other man will live in the White House come January. All hell has broken out in the Middle East. Are we not supposed to hear about how Romney would handle things if he was president? If Romney’s campaign team is advising him to back off, he should fire them and get a new team.
Meanwhile, what about the guy who already is president? He certainly doesn’t seem to have forgotten about the election. Obama flew to Las Vegas for a fundraiser the same day we found out that 4 people were killed at our Libyan embassy and mobs were still gathering outside our embassy in Egypt.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was going to be in New York and asked President Obama for a meeting, his request was turned down. President Obama simply did not have the time. Campaign gigs like The David Letterman Show are too important. All Netanyahu wanted was to talk about that accelerated Iranian nuclear bomb program which threatens to annihilate Israel.
Let’s be clear. Both of our presidential candidates are behaving like politicians. The differences between them are twofold: 1) Obama does it better and with greater finesse. 2) Obama is not only the Democratic candidate of 2012; he is also our current president. It would serve our country well if he were a better Commander-in-Chief than Campaigner-in-Chief.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net
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