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Columnist Karen Rubin: Romney’s wrongheaded attack politics

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Posted: Monday, November 5, 2012 2:54 pm

The question of who should be president comes down to who you trust to lead the nation. Trust and leadership.

Mitt Romney has regularly attacked Obama as a weak leader - the economy has not rebounded sufficiently, he says, since he cannot deny that all measures are moving in the right direction, from housing starts to the Dow. He charges that unemployment is persistently high purely not because of weak consumer demand and the fact corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in cash, but to Obama’s lack of leadership, though he says that government does not create a single job (an absurd statement in itself). 

Most recently, Romney has blamed the protests in the Middle East to an unraveling of Obama’s foreign policy (otherwise considered quite robust) which apparently, took too much to heart that democracy means that local populace actually gets to choose their own leaders, though during the third presidential debate, Romney basically signed on to every major Obama initiative.

Romney’s new line of appeal has basically been: “If you are disappointed that Obama has not achieved everything he  promised in the 2008 campaign, vote for me because I have promises of my own. “  

Are you kidding? Why would anyone think that Romney would complete any of the Obama agenda? The opposite is true, since he has promised on a very busy Day One of a Romney presidency to repeal everything Obama has done so far: repeal Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, college affordability, and reverse course on renewable energy, women’s rights, women’s reproductive freedom, and on and on.

People wondered which Mitt would show up to the third presidential debate: would it be Severely Conservative Mitt? Moderate Mitt? It turns out there is at least a third persona, “Me Too Mitt” though Mitt the Twit of his summertime foreign foray made a cameo appearance in suggesting that Syria was important to U.S. national interests because the nation provided Iran’s only route to the sea (Iran has 1100 mile coastline).

In our community, the issue of Israel looms large, and is in fact the singular reason for many who would otherwise be repelled by the Romney/Ryan domestic agenda, to sign on.

The fact that Romney is backed to the tune of tens of millions of dollars by Sheldon Adelson, who represents his motives as being a staunch supporter of Israel, rather than having a line into a Justice Department and Attorney General who might make his multiple lawsuits disappear, gives Romney that semblance that he would somehow stand stronger in defense of Israel than Obama has been.

But anyone who harbors this misguided notion that a Romney presidency would be better for Israel, should read the New York Times op-ed, “Who Threw Israel Under the Bus?”  by Efraim Halevy, who was director of Mossad from 1998 to 2002 and national security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, from October 2002 to June 2003. (Answer: It wasn’t the Democratic Presidents and especially not Obama; it was the Republican presidents, including and especially George W. Bush).

During the foreign policy debate, Obama declared in no uncertain terms, “Israel is a true friend. It is our greatest ally in the region. And if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel. I’ve made that clear throughout my presidency. ....I will stand with Israel if they are attacked. And this is the reason why, working with Israel, we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history.”

Romney’s criticism of Obama’s handling of Israel seems to boil down to the fact Obama did not make time to personally meet with Benjamin Netanyahu in New York during the UN General Assembly and that he went to the Middle East without stopping in Israel. It couldn’t be because of Obama’s call to use the 1967 borders as a starting point to negotiations since George W. Bush said much the same.

But Obama came back, “If we’re going to talk about trips that we’ve taken -- when I was a candidate for office, first trip I took was to visit our troops. And when I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn’t take donors. I didn’t attend fundraisers. I went to Yad Va’Shem, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable.

“And then I went down to the border towns of Sderot, which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. And I saw families there who showed me there where missiles had come down near their children’s bedrooms. And I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids. Which is why as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles.

“So that’s how I’ve used my travels, when I travel to Israel and when I travel to the region. And the central question at this point is going to be: Who is going to be credible to all parties involved? And they can look at my track record, whether it’s Iran sanctions, whether it’s dealing with counterterrorism, whether it’s supporting democracy, whether it’s supporting women’s rights, whether it’s supporting religious minorities.

“And they can say that the President of the United States and the United States of America has stood on the right side of history. And that kind of credibility is precisely why we’ve been able to show leadership on a wide range of issues facing the world right now.”

Indeed, just before Romney’s trip to Israel for fundraisers with mega-donor Sheldon Adelson in tow, Obama signed an act adding funding for Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile shield and reaffirmed “unwavering commitment to the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state” and calls for providing Israel with “the military capabilities necessary to deter and defend itself against any threat or possible combination of threats.”

The act also pledges a U.S. veto of “any one-sided anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations Security Council” and outlines U.S. support for an expanded Israeli role in NATO, increased intelligence cooperation and increased training for Israel’s air force. 

Just around the time of the foreign policy debate, the U.S. was engaged in unprecedented military exercises with Israel. The U.S. and also been engaged to an unprecedented degree with join intelligence operations (apparently working together on the Stuxnet virus that infected Iran’s nuclear apparatus, and who knows what else?)

What is Romney’s solution to the Israel-Palestine quagmire? In that infamous “47 percent speech” at that private dinner in Boca Raton with $50,000-a-plate donors, when asked how a President Romney would resolve the Israel-Palestinian quagmire, Romney said he felt “that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace - and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.” 

He continued: “You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize this is going to remain an unsolved problem,” adding, “And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately somehow, something will happen to resolve it.” 

He said a former secretary of state had called him to suggest that after the Palestinian elections there might be a prospect for a settlement, but that “I didn’t delve into it.” 

That is hardly leadership. Meanwhile, Romney’s statements would have destroyed the United States’ ability to serve as an “honest broker” of peace. But those who follow Romney, on this and other issues, do not really care about “honest brokers” or fairness, not when it comes to foreign policy, where Romney is praised for chest-thumping American Exceptionalism jingoism (what would that mean in practical terms, anyway?)

The concern for Israel is wrapped up with the fear that Iran will get a nuclear weapon and Romney has also been critical of Obama’s policy on Iran, suggesting that Obama has not been tough enough and under Obama, Iran would get a nuclear weapon; he has even suggested he would strike preemptively.

During the debate, Obama described the actions his administration has taken against Iran, “We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in a shambles.

“And the reason we did this is because a nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security, and it is a threat to Israel’s national security. We cannot afford to have a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.

“Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. And for them to be able to provide nuclear technology to non-state actors, that’s unacceptable. And they have said that they want to see Israel wiped off the map.

“So the work that we’ve done with respect to sanctions now offers Iran a choice. They can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program or they will have to face a united world and a United States president, me, who said we’re not going to take any options off the table.

“The disagreement I have with Gov. Romney is that, during the course of this campaign, he’s often talked as if we should take premature military action. I think that would be a mistake, because when I’ve sent young men and women into harm’s way, I always understand that that is the last resort, not the first resort.”

Romney has spent months of challenging, second-guessing and Monday-morning quarterbacking Obama’s foreign policy moves. Then,  all of a sudden at the debate, Romney set the sabers he had been rattling aside, and was supportive of Obama’s course of tough sanctions against Iran, that diplomacy was the way to solve the crisis, and pledged that he was a man of peace:

Romney’s foreign policy boils down to “a strong America. Peace through strength” and he is proposing allocating a fixed amount - 4 percent of GDP, or $2 trillion more - on the military regardless of whether they need it or want it.

But, Obama attacked the folly of this approach, saying that military spending should be based on capabilities and what you want to accomplish.

“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed,” Obama chidded (zing!) “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

Romney tried to argue that Obama has weakened the U.S. abroad, but Obama charged back, “America remains the one indispensable nation. And the world needs a strong America, and it is stronger now than when I came into office.

“Because we ended the war in Iraq, we were able to refocus our attention on not only the terrorist threat, but also beginning a transition process in Afghanistan.

Romney also betrayed a stunning ignorance of facts, of the complexity of situations (why it took so long to get the Iran sanctions in place? Because Obama needed Russia and China and other nations to be on board - an approach he has used with great success). He conflated, for example, Syria and Iran saying that U.S. support for Syrian rebels was important because Syria was Iran’s only route to the sea (Iran has more than 1,100 miles of seacoast, and Syria does not even border Iran).

Colin Powell, who just endorsed Obama for President (as he did in 2008), called Romney’s foreign policy, a “moving target.” 

“One day he has a certain strong view about staying in Afghanistan, but then on Monday night he agrees with the withdrawal. Same thing in Iraq. On every issue that was discussed on Monday night, Gov. Romney agreed with the president with some nuances. But this is quite a different set of foreign policy views than he had earlier in the campaign.”

That is not leadership, nor can Romney be trusted, by Americans on just about any issue you can name, to foreign leaders.

Romney’s approach to business and jobs creation is on view today, with Bain’s shut down of the Sensata factory in Freeport, Ill, where, despite reaping hundreds of millions in profit (much of which goes to Romney as unearned income), Bain is moving the plant to China. 

Romney was the architect of Bain’s business model of purchasing companies using “leveraged buyouts” that borrow huge sums using the purchased company’s own assets as collateral, and using the borrowed money to immediately pay itself, then cuts costs by doing things like sending jobs to China, cutting wages and manipulating tax rules to cut taxes owed.

In other instances, he bankrupts previously profitable companies under the load of debt, extracting Bain’s fees in advance, and then putting taxpayers on the hook to cover what’s left of the workers’ pensions.

In other words, Romney is perfectly fine using debt in order to maximize his profit and reduce his tax rates, but the national debt is somehow “amoral”.

What may be appropriate for a CEO does not make for a president.

To listen to Romney, his prescription to turn the economy around is simply do nothing: In that 47 percent speech, he said, “if we win on November 6th there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back, and we’ll see 0 without actually doing anything - we’ll actually get a boost in the economy.” (That may be more accurate because of the Obama policies that are in place and already setting the stage for dramatic turnaround in consumer spending, housing starts and jobs creation)

This was not just the May video. Romney’s reaction to the foreclosure crisis was to let the housing market bottom out (curiously not thinking about the people hitting that bottom; Obama’s policies saved 5 million homes from foreclosure), then speculators would buy the real estate and turn it into rentals that maybe even to the former homeowners who presumably are not homeless. He had the same “do nothing” policy on the auto bailout (still lying in trying to take credit, when he objected to a government financed bailout at a time when there was no private credit available).

There isn’t a single aspect of the Romney/Ryan/Republican agenda that doesn’t make me cringe; the thought of a Romney with a Republican-dominated Congress is absolutely terrifying.  We would see a replay of the Bush economy, growing gap between rich and poor, reverse throttle on climate change, push back against voting rights, the installation of a hard-right Supreme Court that will reverse every vestige of progressivism for the next 50 years, and bring this country closer and closer to Plutocracy (the Scalia-Kennedy-Thomas wing does not believe the Constitutions guarantees the right to vote). It will mean the end of women’s reproductive rights and a return to women as second class citizens subject to a Big Brother state; it will mean the end of workers rights, reversal of rights for gays.

In fact, if you look at all the constituencies he would harm - women, Hispanics, college students, environmentalists, union workers, public workers, teachers, veterans, you wonder who is left besides angry white guys, bigots, and those who are fed a constant diet of Fox’s propaganda. 

In contrast, Obama has been consistent and forthright in his policies and his actions. When people look at his plans and say it is just like what he has been proposing, well yes, they are.

Obama has a very different To Do list from Romney, and you know what is on it, because much of it is already legislation that Republicans have held up in Congress: extending the Violence Against Women Act, the Dream Act, the Disclose Act. President Obama has a long-term economic plan to invest in public education, small businesses, clean energy, infrastructure (create an Infrastructure bank to support private investment), continue to rebuild American manufacturing through targeting tax incentives for companies that bring jobs back to the U.S. His policies are aimed at regenerating upward mobility and promoting economic security for the middle class. (see www.barackobama.com/plans/)

Obama is the guy who rejected polls and what was politically popular to advance Health Care Reform (and we all will be thanking our lucky stars in the next few years); who came up with the plan to save the U.S. auto industry when so many told him not to, who repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and stood up for marriage equality, and who, in the face of obstruction by Republicans refusing to take up the Dream Act, enacted on his own “Dream Lite”. Obama is the guy who, against recommendations, gave the “go” to get Osama bin Laden and to provide government guarantees to save the US auto industry, even when it was not clear these would be successful.

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1 comment:

  • stanchaz posted at 4:00 pm on Mon, Nov 5, 2012.

    stanchaz Posts: 1

    Paul Ryan (does that guy have a vested interest?) says that
    Mr. Romney will  make a great President.
    I agree- Romney WILL indeed be a very great President - -for the super-rich.
    But at least Hurricane Sandy has done of us all a favor-
    by causing us to focus on Romney's skewed thinking:
    Consider Romney’s advice for storm & disaster survivors:
    "Don’t be a victim, and stop looking for handouts!"
    And.... ask your parents for help!
    Heck, Romney will dismantle FEMA and the EPA 
    (= more $$$ for his people/corporations).
    Leave it to the states, he says. 
    Yeah, sure. The damage from Katrina was FOUR times Louisiana’a state budget!
    Maybe Romney will make us dams.... out of his used Etch-A-Sketches?
    What we need is a tidal wave.......of voters.....
     to sweep these kind of guys out of power.
    THAT is the BEST way to help the victims of present and future Sandys.
    ...AND ....the best way to help yourself, and your family.
    Obama does not dismiss 47% of America like Romney.
    Obama says: This is not a Republican America. 
    This is not a Democratic America.
    This is the UNITED States of America.
    p.s. This is not mere rhetoric. For in many ways, Mitt Romney's opposition to federal disaster relief programs is what the election is all about.
     President Barack Obama supports using government to help those in a crisis get back on their feet.  Mitt Romney believes that government 
    has no role in helping people who are dealing with disaster.  Those two very different views of America's future are on the ballot next week. 
    Your choice.    Choose well.    Choose as if your life depended on it. 
    Because some day.....it just might.
    We know from Mitt's values (or lack of them) that he's not a Christian.
    But heck, he's not even a Mormon. Come on Mitt, let’s be honest: 
    YOUR REAL GODS ARE MONEY AND GREED.
    And your saints are those who have the most money
    ..... those who want to BUY this ELECTION - and this COUNTRY
         ......and FORGET the rest of us.
    They try to drown us out with their dollars. 
    But WE still have a voice. And it’s called our VOTE.
    We need a President for ALL the people -
    NOT a President of the wealthy, by the wealthy, 
    and for the wealthy.
    And for sure, that AIN’T you Mitt.....