Mitt Romney has delivered a lot of dishonest speeches in recent months, but Monday’s address on foreign policy may be the most mendacious yet.
It was expected that he would distort President Obama into a caricature of Jimmy Carter. But it was astonishing to watch Romney spin a daydream of himself as some latter-day George Marshall, bringing peace, prosperity, and hope to a chaotic world—this from a man who couldn’t drop in on the London Olympics without alienating our closest ally and turning himself into a transcontinental laughingstock.
To the extent that Romney recited valid criticisms of Obama’s policies, he offered no alternatives. To the extent he spelled out specific steps he would take to deal with one problem or another, he merely recited actions that Obama has already taken.
Let’s go through the text, point by point.
Romney began with the recent attacks on the Libyan consulate, the killing of the U.S. ambassador, and the anti-American riots that broke out across the Middle East—all signs, he claimed, that “the threats we face have grown so much worse” while President Obama does nothing.
Let’s pause here. First, these threats are not worsening; in fact, the number of attacks on U.S. embassies is near an all-time low. Second, the spate of attacks, riots, and American flag-burnings, which followed the attacks in Libya and Egypt, ended almost immediately. Romney himself, after recounting the grim events, noted that we’re now seeing “something hopeful”—protests by “tens of thousands of Libyans” against the militants and in support of the American ambassador.
Yet Romney ignored the reasons why the riots subsided and why the Libyan people went after the militants. These things happened because President Obama had supported the Libyan rebels in their resistance to Muammar Qaddafi—and because, after the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Obama had a long phone conversation with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, spelling out the facts of life: that Morsi had to choose between siding with the Islamist militants (who formed part of his constituency) and rejoining the civilized world. Romney repeatedly bemoaned Obama’s passivity, but one can only ask: What is he talking about?
Later in the speech, Romney criticized Obama for “missing an historic opportunity to win new friends who share our values in the Middle East.” It’s unclear whether, or to what extent, even the protesters in Benghazi “share our values,” but it is clear that Obama’s actions have made them friends—which is why they took to the streets against the militants.
Romney then turned to the topic near and dear to the voters of Florida in particular. “The relationship between the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel, our closest ally in the region, has suffered great strains,” he said, adding that they have “set back the hopes of peace in the Middle East and emboldened our mutual adversaries.”
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