Bad habits are hard to break. Sixteen months after the electorate told him to take a hike, Mitt Romney is still lying.
He has lately embarked on a sour grapes tour, seeking to sell himself as a retroactive foreign policy expert who, by dint of his wisdom and muscle, surely would’ve prevented Vladimir Putin from committing illegal mischief in Crimea. But that’s a heavy lift for a guy who, even now, remains woefully allergic to basic facts.
It’s barely worth speculating whether the former one-term governor is jonesing for a third (failed) presidential bid, or whether he’s trying to outflank the McCain-Graham neocon tag team, or whether he’s stricken by Loser’s Syndrome (as in, “I’m better than the guy who beat me”), or whether he’s simply bored with his car elevator and his life of one-percent leisure. Forget all that. It’s sufficient just to slap down Mitt for being Mitt.
It’s tiresome to see him campaigning anew, in the op-ed pages of The Wall Street Journal and on the Sunday talk shows, given his well-established dearth of foreign policy chops. In the ’12 debates, Mitt couldn’t even master basic geography: “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world, it’s their route to the sea.” Since Iran actually has its own route to the sea – courtesy of a coastline 1000 miles long – we were left to conclude that Mitt can’t even read a map.
Remember, this is the same guy who persistently lied that President Obama had traveled the world “on an apology tour, of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America” – a figment of the right-wing imagination, a charge thoroughly and repeatedly refuted by every empirical fact checker. And remember, today’s self-styled anti-Putin hardliner was famously soft on Osama bin Laden back in 2008, insisting that it wasn’t worth moving “heaven on earth” to get America’s top enemy, and that even if bin Laden was gettable in Pakistan, Mitt said he’d first ask Pakistan for permission.
(But what about Mitt’s 2012 declaration that Russia is “our number one geopolitical foe”? Was he not prescient? Nope. Mitt merely named Russia as our top geopolitical foe in the United Nations. He told CNN that a nuclear Iran and a nuclear North Korea were greater threats: “When those terrible actors pursue their course in the world and we go to the United Nations looking for ways to stop them, when (Syrian President) Assad, for instance, is murdering his own people, we go to the United Nations and who is it that always stands up for the world’s worst actors? It is always Russia, typically with China alongside, and so in terms of a geopolitical foe, a nation that’s on the Security Council, that has the heft of the Security Council, and is of course a massive security power — Russia is the geopolitical foe.”)
Anyway. Let’s go to Mitt’s latest Sunday gig. Two days ago, while insisting on Face the Nation that he would’ve been better than Obama at deterring Putin, he uncorked this beaut: “Our esteem around the world has fallen. I can’t think of a major country that has more respect – it’s hard to think of a single country – that has greater respect and admiration for America today than it did five years ago when Barack Obama became president.” He said the same thing four days earlier in The Wall Street Journal.
See, this is the problem I have with Mitt. It’s hard to take him seriously on serious issues when he persists in lying so blatantly.
He can’t think of “a major country…a single country” that looks more favorably on America since Obama took office? Let’s enlighten him with stats from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, released last July. Let’s compare the 2013 favorability percentages with those reported by Pew in 2007, during the Bush era. Ready?
In ’07, 30 percent of Germans viewed America favorably; in ’13, it was 53 percent. In ’07, 34 percent of Spaniards viewed America favorably; in ’13, it was 62 percent. In ’07, 78 percent of Israelis viewed America favorably; in ’13, it was 83 percent. In ’07, 34 percent of Chinese viewed America favorably; in ’13, it was 40 percent. The Russian favorablity share rose 10 points, to 51 percent. The Mexican favorability share rose 10 points, to 66 percent. The Italian favorability share rose 23 points, to 76 percent….and so on. Of the 26 nations surveyed by Pew, 22 felt more positive about America. (Gallup, after surveying 130 countries in 2012, and measuring those results against its findings in 2008, reported the same upward trend.)
So again, Mitt had no idea what he was talking about.
Lying so pitifully is a deal-breaker. And there’s no need to indulge Mitt’s tough-on-Putin fantasies anyway – because the real foreign policy experts understand that Putin is playing his own game, irrespective of America’s posture. Former Defense secretary Robert Gates, who served under Bush and Obama, recently pointed out on Fox News that Russia and Crimea have a long, complicated history, and that Putin’s moves in that region obviously predate Obama. Gates said other stuff, too:
“In the middle of a major international crisis, domestic criticism of the president ought to be toned down, while he’s trying to handle this crisis. My own view is, after all, Putin invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president. Nobody ever accused George W. Bush of being weak or unwilling to use military force, so I think Putin is very opportunistic in these arenas. I think that even if we had launched attacks in Syria (last autumn), I think Putin saw an opportunity here in Crimea, and he has seized it.”
By the way, if Mitt wants to complain about America’s global image, perhaps he should read Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia. Writing yesterday about the Crimea crisis, McFaul lamented that “the United States does not have the same moral authority as it did in the last century.” (Oooh. That must be Obama’s fault, right?) McFaul continued: “As ambassador, I found it difficult to defend our commitment to sovereignty and international law when asked by Russians, ‘What about Iraq?'”
Good luck finding a Mitt remark that dissed the war in Iraq. Back then, he apparently didn’t believe in criticizing a president in the midst of an international crisis. But that was long before he started guzzling on sour grapes.
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