Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Reckless, Amateurish... Romney's Foreign Policy Agenda


Glenn Greewald made a valid point in his presidential debate coverage for The Guardian last week by pointing out that the debates give us an illusion of choice. He's determined to expose the hidden consensus behind all they agree on. "Most of what matters in American political life," he asserts, "is nowhere to be found in its national election debates. Penal policies vividly illustrate this point. ...[T]hey have no discernible differences when it comes to any of the underlying policies, including America's relentless fixation on treating drug usage as a criminal, rather than health, problem. The oppressive system that now imprisons 1.8 million Americans, and that will imprison millions more over their lifetime, is therefore completely ignored during the only process when most Americans are politically engaged."
President Obama's dramatically escalated drone attacks in numerous countries have generated massive anger in the Muslim world, continuously kill civilians, and are of dubious legality at best. His claimed right to target even American citizens for extrajudicial assassinations, without a whiff of transparency or oversight, is as radical a power as any seized by George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Yet Americans whose political perceptions are shaped by attentiveness to the presidential campaign would hardly know that such radical and consequential policies even exist. That is because here too there is absolute consensus between the two parties.

A long list of highly debatable and profoundly significant policies will be similarly excluded due to bipartisan agreement. The list includes a rapidly growing domestic surveillance state that now monitors and records even the most innocuous activities of all Americans; job-killing free trade agreements; climate change policies; and the Obama justice department's refusal to prosecute the Wall Street criminals who precipitated the 2008 financial crisis.

On still other vital issues, such as America's steadfastly loyal support for Israel and its belligerence towards Iran, the two candidates will do little other than compete over who is most aggressively embracing the same absolutist position. And this is all independent of the fact that even on the issues that are the subject of debate attention, such as healthcare policy and entitlement "reform," all but the most centrist positions are off limits.
That said, this was the top of the front page of Greenwald's daily paper in the U.K. when I woke up Monday morning, just before Romney's foreign policy speech at (ominously) a military academy in Lexington, Virginia. A lot of saber-rattling and nothing much else... it's a war between freedom and tyranny, that type of crap that the GOP base eats up. He's ready to chaaaaaarge right back into the Bush Doctrine. And Obama isn't "free trade" enough for him. He flat out lied that Obama hadn't signed any free trade agreements. I wish he hadn't but he signed three.

Serious Europeans and Brits-- both conservatives and Conservatives-- have written Romney off as a dilettante and feckless rich boy way out of his depth but brimming over with grand presidential ambitions. Foreign leaders all shudder at the thought of this bungling clown winning next month. Yesterday's speech, in which he declared we should arm the Syrian rebels-- whoever they are (something even McCain admits is a horrible idea)-- didn't help make anyone feel less apprehensive. His foreign policy is, basically, "Obama is bad." Romney said it was, for example, a mistake to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. The occupation should have continued. No doubt even Greenwald senses a clear difference between the two parties there. So did Donald Rumsfeld:

And so did former Senator Larry Pressler (R-ND), a Vietnam vet who listened to Romney and immediately endorsed President Obama. "I endorse President Barack Obama for a second term as our Commander-in-Chief," he wrote. "Candidates publicly praise our service members, veterans and their families, but President Obama supports them in word and deed, anywhere and every time... This decision is not easy for any lifelong Republican. In 2008 I voted for Barack Obama, the first time I ever voted for a Democrat, because the Republican Party was drifting toward a dangerous path that put extreme party ideology above national interest. Mitt Romney heads a party remaining on that dangerous path, proving the emptiness of their praise as they abandon our service members, veterans and military families along the way." He said what a lot of mainstream Republicans and independent voters have been thinking as they watch Romney in action.
What really set me off was Romney's reference to 47% of Americans to be written off -- including any veteran collecting disability like myself, as a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) veteran.

Behind closed doors with his donors, Romney made clear he'd write off half of America-- including service members and veterans-- because, as he said "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility for their lives." But there's no greater personal responsibility than to wear your country's uniform and defend the rights we all enjoy as Americans. We don't sow division between "us" versus "them." The Commander-in-Chief sets the bar for all to follow and fight for the entire country. Mitt Romney fails that test. As a veteran I feel written off.

Just as revealing is what Romney actually says publicly. As a former Foreign Service Officer, I find it offensive that Romney, Congressman Paul Ryan and their Republican Party are politicizing the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans who lost their lives in Libya. Being Commander-in-Chief requires a resolve and steadiness that's immune to politics and fear mongering. Mitt Romney fails that test.

And along with high-profile Republican surrogates, Romney and Ryan are pandering to election-year politics rather than focusing on pending cuts to military spending. Strategy should drive our military priorities, not party purity.

...That's the difference in this election. In word and deed anywhere and every time, President Obama never forgets that standing by those who serve is the heart, soul and core value of this country. As a life-long Republican, I stand by him as he stands by all of us, putting national allegiance ahead of party affiliation. I endorse President Obama for reelection in 2012.
Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright summed up his speech by saying he's a lightweight and his ideas are trivial. "I just find him very shallow in the ideas that he has,” she said. “Shallow. The op-ed that he had in the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago? I’m a professor and if one of my students turned it in they’d get a ‘C’ because he gave absolutely no specifics."

Here's a Romney spokesperson on CNN just before Romney made his speech. Soledad O'Brien questioned her about Romney's foreign policy agenda. She completely elucidated what the agenda is: attacking Obama. That's it-- nothing but that-- even if the specifics were 180 degrees away from things he's been saying (privately) to the Republican base.

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