29 July 2012


LAST UPDATED: 08/12/2015
"Despite the campaign positioning, on the most fundamental international issues, the president and his challenger generally share the same goals, even if they would get there in different ways." 
That's from a rather stunning piece in the New York Times called, "Romney and Obama Strain to Show Gap on Foreign Policy" by Peter Baker (07/28/12).

I could sit here and list the many ways in which this article is off-the-charts wrong. And I will. But first, it's worth pointing out that Mr. Baker's framework makes perfect sense: specifically after Iraq - whether there's a Republican or Democrat in the Oval Office - war-weary USA would most likely exhaust all other avenues before it goes for the shock-and-awe card again. We get it. And that's a good thing.

But that alone should not be the basis for the article. At least not this article, when one candidate's ties to Iraq are as plain as day.

THE PROBLEM: In the article, while acknowledging Iraq to have been a game-changing moment in American foreign policy, he doesn't name nearly all of the Romney Campaign officials - formerly under the Bush/Cheney White House - who were directly responsible *for* Iraq.

First, let's look at Baker's five areas, verbatim, where he claims campaign trail rhetoric is creating a false divide on foreign policy:
  1. IRAN: "Richard S. Williamson, a former Bush special envoy, said Mr. Romney would be tougher in stopping Iran's nuclear program, but outlined the same tools used by Mr. Obama: sanctions to force negotiations, with the option of military action on the table."
  2. CHINA: "One area where the president and his rival clash is China. Mr. Romney has vowed to crack down on unfair trade and intellectual property matters, imposing targeted tariffs or sanctions, designating China a currency manipulator and halting government purchases of Chinese goods until Beijing signs a procurement agreement. Mr. Obama's aides say he has acted against unfair practices but he has not been as confrontational. Still, China is the most frequent example where candidates have tough words on the campaign trail only to temper them once in office. Mr. Bush was elected expecting confrontation with China but ultimately made Beijing a critical partner in pushing North Korea to give up nuclear arms."
  3. RUSSIA: "Mr. Romney has called Russia "our No. 1 geopolitical foe" and declared Mr. Obama's effort to improve relations a failure. Mr. Romney promises to challenge Mr. Putin's authoritarianism. But he has not suggested cutting off cooperation between the countries’ space programs or counterterrorism agencies, nor shutting down the Afghanistan supply route through Russia negotiated by Mr. Obama. He supports Mr. Obama's drive to normalize trade relations, though with a human rights amendment the president initially resisted."
  4. POLAND: "Mr. Romney's visit to Poland is intended to highlight what he called Mr. Obama's “sudden abandonment of friends in Poland” under Russian pressure by canceling Mr. Bush's missile defense program partly based there. But Mr. Obama did not abandon missile defense altogether; he substituted a reconfigured system devised by Mr. Bush's last defense secretary."
  5. AFGHANISTAN: "On Afghanistan, Mr. Romney has criticized Mr. Obama for pulling additional troops out too soon and for setting a deadline of withdrawing other combat forces by 2014. Mr. Obama's allies accuse Mr. Romney of wanting endless war. But Mr. Romney also wants to withdraw forces by 2014, even if he does not call it a deadline."
  1. IRAN: Romney surrogate says one thing, yet Romney's Iran policy will use same tools as the Obama Administration.
  2. CHINA: In the Chinese example, Baker points out that the Obama campaign's tough stance towards China was relaxed - just as President Bush's had - after entering the White House. I believe this example is invalidly applied to Baker's premise.
  3. RUSSIA: Big talk from Governor Romney, yet he says he intends to follow same path as the Obama Administration.
  4. POLAND: Romney says president "abandoned" missile program, yet facts prove otherwise.
  5. AFGHANISTAN: Romney criticizes president's planned 2014 departure, yet he too intends to withdraw in 2014.
Yes, on the diplomacy surface, it does appear as though Mr. Romney's foreign policy aligns elegantly with Mr. Obama's. It is safe. It is responsible. [Conservatives may be scratching their heads right about now.] But, the remarkable distortions from the Romney Campaign are bizarrely discounted by the Times.

So, the real questions here ought to be:
Here's more from the article:
"Marvin Kalb, the journalist and scholar who moderated last week's Brookings debate [between campaign surrogates], said the differences he detected were more about words than substance. 'Though his rhetoric was sharper, certainly more political,' Mr. Kalb wrote of the Romney surrogate, 'his basic policy prescriptions were cut essentially from the same cloth.'"
... from the same cloth. [More conservative head-scratching.]:
"But broadly, their differences are less radical than the campaign trail dialogue makes them sound and do not compare to the seismic debates over the Iraq war that consumed Washington in the middle of the last decade."
"Iraq has taken off the table the most profound foreign policy differences," said P. J. Crowley, who worked on Bill Clinton’s National Security Council and in Mr. Obama’s State Department. 'There’s more continuity in foreign policy than people realize.'"
Yet, Iraq *does* have everything to do with the debate today.

Because Iraq represents a time when America was fooled - with eyes wide open. Whether you're a Democrat, Republican, Independent, all of the above, or apolitical, I think a majority of us can come together to agree that we messed that up, big time. 

Deep inside number 5 above (almost hidden), you'll find the line: 
"Mr. Obama's allies accuse Mr. Romney of wanting endless war."
This is the only example Baker offers to show the Obama Campaign's use of campaign rhetoric. It also happens to be closest to the truth when compared with all of Governor Romney's distortions. I don't know about "endless," but Iraq and Afghanistan are our two longest wars, ever. That pretty much says it all.

Amidst the debate over foreign policy, it won't be long until the usual suspects - like Chris Matthews or Rachel Maddow - point out that former Vice President Dick Cheney and his neocons are buzzing around behind the scenes at the Romney Campaign. Remember that Governor Romney and Dick Cheney refused to pose for pictures together during a recent Wyoming fundraiser. We get it. It's no surprise that all politicians will want to distance themselves from Iraq. Is the New York Times afflicted with Iraq-amnesia?

With the ongoing global recession, mixed with humanity's (still fairly new) ability to communicate at lightning speed; we live in a tinderbox world. That said, it matters that the person we all pick to lead us in the next four years is supported by a team of credible men and women who have the insight and integrity to navigate us through it all, under God.

The fact that Mr. Romney has surrounded himself with the same people who were behind Iraq matters. 

Because this is precisely the moment where we could get fooled a second time. 

And if that were to happen, shame on us.

UPDATE: Read this article - also in the New York Times - instead: "Retiring Envoy to Afghanistan Exhorts U.S. to Heed Its Past." In the article, Mr. Ryan Crocker urges us not to forget the lessons of the past when addressing today's foreign policy challenges:
  • Remember the law of unintended consequences.
  • Recognize the limits of the United States' actual capabilities.
  • Understand that getting out of a conflict once you are in can often be dangerous and as destructive for the country as the original conflict.
RELATED: The GOP has been busy doing the right thing today...
"Vice President Dick Cheney says Sarah Palin pick was 'a mistake'"

"'You don't interpret a penalty to be a pig,' Scalia said. 'It can't be a pig. And what my dissent said in the Affordable Care Act was simply there is no way to regard this penalty as a tax. It simply does not bear that meaning.'"
"Our results show that the average temperature of the earth's land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases." 
Well, most of them, anyway:

Self-awareness is half the battle, GOP. Baby steps. (wink)

UPDATE 08/12/15 : 
"This is a pretty bold attempt to rewrite history and reassign responsibility. [The George W. Bush Administration] cannot be allowed to escape responsibility for the real mistake here. They might hope we'll all forget, but the American People remember." 
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY), a pitch perfect response to Governor Jeb Bush's (R-FL) recent delusions about Iraq. Good God, Jeb. Self awareness is only the *first* step. Time's a tickin'.
PICTURE: January 20, 2009, Washington, DC.