LZ: Romney's foreign policy twilight zone
I was waiting for my bags at the airport when I saw Mitt Romney delivering his foreign policy speech on TV.
Coincidentally, I was holding the latest issue of Time, which has Romney and President Obama on the cover, and between them the question, "Who Is Telling the Truth?"
I was in Chicago, but by the end of Romney's speech I thought I was in the twilight zone. Here's why.
The Time article debunks a lot of the lies and distortions put forth by both candidates. As I was reading about Romney's untruths, I was watching him repeat them, on TV.
One example that stood out was about trade. On Monday Romney said, "The president has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years."
False, said the Time article: "Obama signed previously negotiated trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea."
Not one to just go along with whatever the "liberal media" put in front of me, I looked for a fair and balanced source. That's when I came across this 2011 headline from Fox News: "Obama Signs 3 Trade Deals, Biggest Since NAFTA."
The story went on to say that the South Korean deal was renegotiated by Obama to expand access for U.S. vehicles in Korea, supporting 70,000 jobs; that Republicans supported the signings; and that Obama actually went against a large number of Democrats in the House to get the deal done.
A little more digging revealed that Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, voted in favor of the deal -- called HR 3080 -- on October 12, 2011.
So either Romney has no idea what he's talking about, or he stood in front of the good folks at Virginia Military Institute and told a big old fat lie. Sadly, neither possibility is all that unusual in this year's election. As the Time piece pointed out, Obama also straddles that fence from time to time on the campaign trail.
So the trippy, twilight zone part of Romney's speech wasn't his misrepresentation of the president's foreign policy, but that Romney was talking as if no one had seen him express, for example, the uncensored version of his own foreign policy, thanks to the secretly taped video from the now infamous Boca Raton fund-raiser.
On Monday, as he criticized Obama, he said "hope is not a strategy."
But at that dinner, when he thought no one outside of that room was watching, Romney said that "the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish" between Israel and the Palestinians, and that the best we can hope for is to "kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve."
Now if that's not hope as a strategy, I don't know what is.
Last week during the debate, Romney was criticized for pivoting away from some of the economic policies he'd been pushing for nearly two years.
Monday, he just seemed to be pivoting away from reality, trying to deliver a big robust foreign policy speech -- as if none of us had heard his foreign policy adviser Robert O'Brien describe Obama's focus on foreign policy as a "distraction" barely a month ago.
While there may not have been anything in Romney's speech that sounded as loony as when Herman Cain said he was afraid China was "trying to develop nuclear capability," there were certainly enough moments to make you wonder if Romney was just trying to toss as much garbage as he could against VMI's wall to see if anything would stick.
He criticized the president for being too passive in supporting forces trying to overthrow a dictator, forgetting that a year ago he condemned the president for being too aggressive in helping forces overthrow a dictator.
"Qaddafi must go and go for good," is what the president said in a 2011 joint New York Times op-ed article with David Cameron, prime minister of Britain, and Nicolas Sarkozy, then president of France.
In response, Romney said our involvement was "another example of mission creep" and agreed with former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, who said Obama had set himself up for "massive strategic failure" by demanding Gadhafi's ouster.
Romney talked a lot about Libya on Monday but failed to mention Gadhafi. Curious.
And while Libya is hardly a bastion of democracy, Romney is embarrassingly wrong in saying "the president has failed to offer the tangible support that our partners want and need."
He said the U.S. should be aiding the rebels in Syria. We have been for months.
He said the U.S. needs to support Israel. This administration has allocated more aid to Israel than any other.
He said the U.S. needs to be tough on Iran. Iranians were rioting in the streets last week because their currency has lost more than half of its value against the dollar over the past two months because of the Obama-led sanctions.
I'm all for constructive criticism, but it would help if Romney actually had something to say. And by "something to say" I mean something truthful to say. But then again, as Republican master manipulator Frank Luntz said in the Time article: "We don't collect news to inform us. We collect news to affirm us."
That's why instead of asking "Who is telling the truth?" maybe the better question is "Does the truth even matter?" In July, Pew found 30% of Republicans believe Obama is a Muslim -- still.
Face it, Romney gave the vacuous foreign policy speech that he did because at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter to his supporters what he says, just as long as he's the one saying it. In their eyes, the president can do no right, while in the eyes of Obama supporters, the president can do no wrong. In that kind of cuckoo political reality, "truth" is just another obstacle to overcome.
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