Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Some questions for the Governor

YOU JUST know it’s coming: At tonight’s second presidential debate of the 2012 season, a town-hall affair in which the questions come from everyday people, somebody — either a senior citizen with deep concerns about the state of the nation he or she grew up in, or some earnest undergraduate wiseass who loves disruption for its own sake — will ask The Question that resonates for years to come. It will, inevitably, be the one question that the campaigns didn’t wargame for.

When the debate swings to foreign policy, as is expected tonight, Mitt Romney, still on the glide path from a recent resurgence in the polls, may want to be sure he’s not walking around the cabin of the aircraft. Based on what's available through the public record, he might expect a little, uh, turbulence.

For the last year, Romney’s perspective of life and lives outside the United States has been crowded with misstatements and an almost brazen insensitivity to cultures and traditions outside his own. Add to that a series of outright reversals of his own policies on various global situations, and you’re left with a candidate vulnerable on different fronts.

I won’t be there in the hall to ask questions at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., and probably neither will you. But let’s pretend we’ve got the Republican nominee all to ourselves.

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Governor Romney: At your speech at the Virginia Military Institute on Oct. 8, you said, “The President has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years. I will reverse that failure. I will work with nations around the world that are committed to the principles of free enterprise, expanding existing relationships and establishing new ones.”

Last October, of course, in an Oval Office ceremony, President Obama signed not one but three trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, agreements that were years in development and which could reap billions for U.S. exporters in years to come.

Even House Speaker John Boehner was cool with it, saying in a statement that “years of perseverance have been rewarded today as American job creators will have new opportunities to expand … While this day took too long to come, manufacturers, farmers, and small businesses can now be more competitive in the global marketplace.”

Governor Romney, would you like to correct that — for the record?

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AMONG THE other, more virally circulated comments you made in Boca Raton, back in May, you held forth on the situation in the Middle East: “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way. So what you do is, you say, you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem ... and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”

That’s a real walkback from what you said at VMI: “Finally, I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel. On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew.”

Mr. Romney, these seem to be more than just tweaks or refinements to a defined, articulated geopolitical overview. This sounds like something from a man without a philosophical compass. Which position is your current position? Never mind “current” position — what’s your real position?

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You’ve lately made a lot out of the tragic situation that began on Sept. 11, when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. You’ve taken President Obama to task more than once for a lack of embassy security.

But in 2011 and 2012, the Republican-led House cut the president’s funding request for embassy security and related purposes by $500 million. The budget proposed by your own running mate, Paul Ryan, would slash spending in the area by another 10 percent in 2013, and even more down the road.

Just last week, interviewed by CNN, Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, said he “absolutely” voted to cut embassy security funding. “When you’re in touch economic times, you have to make difficult choices. You have to prioritize things.”

Governor Romney, how the hell do you square your position on the need for more embassy security with your party’s position, and your running mate’s position, on refusing to pay for the security you say our embassies need?

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OH YEAH: Shortly after your VMI speech last week, you went into a roundtable of retired admirals and generals and said this — with a perfectly straight face, according to a video of the event:

“Back in 2008, during the presidential debates, there were no discussions of terrorism. And, uh, yet, a year later, the world was changed.”

Let’s set aside for the moment the numerous times that Sen. John McCain and then-Sen. Barack Obama did in fact mention terrorism in that year’s debates. Never mind that verifiable claptrap, just one more of the aggressive factual errors you’ve been performing all year.

Take note of what you told the generals: “a year later, the world was changed.”

WTF did you mean when you said that? What could have so changed the world in 2009? Did you mean the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States?

Or did you, he who would be president of the United States, manage to confuse 2009 with 2001, the year of 9/11 and the war footing we’ve been on ever since?

Thank you, Governor.

Image credits: Romney at VMI: via youtube. Obama signs trade deals: Pete Souza/The White House. Stevens: State Department (public domain). Chaffetz: U.S. House (public domain).

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