During a speech this weekend to the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney drew applause and laughter from the group when he answered a question about what he would do to strengthen the relationship between Israel and the United States and how he would handle Iran. He said:
“I think, by and large, you can just look at the things the president has done and do the opposite.”
Chandler then usefully produces a list of things Romney had just pledged to do differently. Among them:
*Take the military option against Iran off the table.
* Proclaim boldly and often that an Iranian nuclear weapon is acceptable and sponsor a policy of containment.
* Unravel the labyrinthine, biting international sanctions against Iran.
* Suspend or condemn attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities and assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.
The list is much longer. Still, I think this says less about Governor Romney's propensity for campaign-trail hyperbole and more about his audience's grasp of the relevant facts. Instead of laughter and applause, anyone with a minimal awareness of Obama's policies on Israel should have had a puzzled look on their face, even if they thought Obama has made a hash of the relationship. Instead, they lapped it up.
Romney made another recommendation in the speech that suggested he had a dim view of Americans' ability to handle complicated facts:
"But perhaps overarching is this: I would not want to show a dime's worth of distance between ourselves and our allies like Israel. If we have disagreements, you know, we can talk about them behind closed doors. But to the world, you show that we're locked arm in arm," he said.
Outside of a World War III scenario, it's difficult to imagine why anyone thinks this is a healthy or reasonable pose for the U.S. to adopt with any of its allies. To the extent that allies have a serious disagreement, it's useful for those to be aired publicly so that the respective publics can understand and pass judgments on the nature of those disagreements and the policies of each government.
Take Canada - arguably America's most important ally. The U.S. and Canada currently disagree rather strongly about an oil pipeline. Would Romney prefer we not know that this disagreement exists?
Alliances of the sort Romney is referring to aren't marriages whose appearances need to be kept up for the sake of the children.