Monday, October 15, 2012

Where Would Mitt Romney Be When The Phone Call Comes Into The White House Switchboard At 4AM?

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 It's now widely acknowledged that foreign policy is clearly-- dangerously-- Romney's weakest suit. From his bungled and insulting romp through England, Israel and Poland, his attack on America while the consulate in Benghazi was under attack and his grotesque attempt to politicize the death of Ambassador Stevens to his attacks on China trade policies that belie his own bizarre net of investments in Chinese sweat shops, and the substance-free foreign policy speech he made at a military academy, Romney is clearly out of his depth on foreign policy. It's not, after all, like converting "heathen" Christians to Mormonism in France or like finding shady off shore banks to hide cash from the tax collector.
The 2011 return has 267 pages devoted to offshore corporations and partnerships. Reuters' Lynnley Browning reported that $4.5 million of the Romneys' long-term capital gains for 2011 came from foreign assets and $3.5 million from foreign income. The New York Times noted that Romney invested $77,262 in CNOOC Limited, the Chinese state-owned oil company, and in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. He also had large investments in a Swiss bank, a Luxembourg steel company and machinery companies in Denmark and Japan. (These were all sold on Aug. 10, 2011, the day before Romney debated his Republican rivals in Iowa and before he started blasting President Barack Obama for being soft on Chinese trade policies.)
This record shouldn't give anyone the idea that Romney is remotely competent to handle foreign affairs, perhaps the single most important job of an American president. And the foreign policy advisors he's surrounding himself with-- the Bush era catastrophe team which led us into unjustifiable, bankrupting wars and breeches in alliances-- only make matters worse. Perhaps the reason polls of the only state where Romney ever held public office show him barely able to break into the 40 percent approval, though, is an even clearer warning-- Romney was a hands-off, absentee chief executive after he was elected governor of Massachusetts. He spent one day in 4 outside of the state, either vacationing or setting himself up politically for one of his presidential runs. "More than 70 percent of that time was spent on personal or political trips unrelated to his job, a New York Times analysis found."
When the ceiling collapsed in the Big Dig tunnel here, Gov. Mitt Romney was at his vacation home in New Hampshire. When the Bush administration warned that the nation was at high risk of a terror attack in December 2003, he was at his Utah retreat. And for much of the time the legislature was negotiating changes to his landmark health care bill, he was on the road.

...Romney, now the Republican presidential nominee, took lengthy vacations and weekend getaways. But much of his travel was to lay the groundwork for the presidential ambitions he would pursue in the 2008 election, two years after leaving office.

During his last year as governor, he was largely an absentee chief executive. In October 2006, for example, he was out of the state all or part of 25 days. His public schedules said he was spending “personal time in Utah” or “attending political events” in California, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin. He went to a fund-raiser on Oct. 6 in Georgia for the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, stumped on Oct. 12 for a candidate for governor in Pennsylvania and appeared on Oct. 31 in Idaho on behalf of another candidate. In December, his last month in office, he took a swing through Asia before vacationing in Utah.

No one points to any lapses from his absences. But some former constituents, particularly Democrats, say Mr. Romney’s travels suggest that he was more interested in attaining the governor’s post than in doing the job. They argue that his focus on his political rise limited his achievements, and they point to President Obama’s double-digit lead in polls in Massachusetts as evidence of a bad taste left by Mr. Romney’s single term.

“I thought he gave up on his job,” said Phil Johnston, the chairman of the state Democratic Party while Mr. Romney was in office. “Romney was quite popular at the beginning of his tenure. The relationship between him and the Massachusetts electorate really soured.”

...Much of Mr. Romney’s time on the road when he was governor was spent barnstorming the nation-- traveling to at least 38 states-- as he positioned himself for his first presidential run. He also sought to build up his foreign policy credentials, visiting Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as well as Greece, the Vatican, China, Japan and South Korea. He attended fund-raisers for local legislators in swing states like Iowa and Michigan and raised money nationwide for his political action committee.

...As his term progressed, the press corps took note of the governor’s travels — and the ill will they generated. The Herald reported that an anonymous group distributed pictures of Mr. Romney on the back of a milk carton, with the caption “Have You Seen Me?” One headline from The Herald was blunt: “Mitt’s Mass Denial.” A Globe analysis of the costs of his travel-- Mr. Romney took no salary and paid for his personal and political trips, but the state paid for his security detail-- found that taxpayers had paid more than $100,000 in the 2006 fiscal year and $63,874 the year before.

Mr. Romney’s frustrations in his home state, where he was often thwarted by an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, became a common theme when he was on the road. He told audiences in Missouri and South Carolina in 2005 that being a Republican in Massachusetts was like being “a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention.” He told the Heritage Foundation that he was like a “red speck in a blue state.”

His comments irked some in Massachusetts.

“He would make punch lines making fun of Massachusetts, and that was not widely appreciated,” said Michael J. Widmer, the president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed public policy group. “He was traveling so much the last two years, his most active period was really just two years. It’s tough enough for governors to get something done in four years, let alone two.”

Mr. Widmer said that while the administration focused on passing health care legislation in the second half of Mr. Romney’s term, “the rest of his agenda just went by the wayside.”

...[I]t was not uncommon for Mr. Romney to spend a week or more vacationing. During the summer, he frequently spent weekends at his retreat on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, about two hours north of Boston, and in 2005 he stayed for almost all of a two-week stretch... Romney’s visits to New Hampshire became so frequent that the Manchester Union Leader, the state’s largest paper, wrote an editorial complaining about attempts by his security detail to cordon off a section of the lake around his home.

“The Massachusetts State Police have no jurisdiction over Lake Winnipesaukee,” it said, adding that troopers from a neighboring state should not be allowed “to harass and intimidate people who are out to enjoy that section of the lake.”

The paper endorsed Senator John McCain in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries and Newt Gingrich this time around.
It wouldn't be the first time that a newly elected president needed on the job training but Romney's aides say he has no interest or understanding of foreign affairs and, let's face it, this is a hands-off CEO type who will delegate things he doesn't like to people he trusts... like John Bolton.
Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, skewered Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team on Monday, saying their policies make his stomach turn.

   Wilkerson took particular aim at John Bolton, former President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations-- and now an adviser to Romney.

  “The man scares me to death,” Wilkerson, a retired U.S. Army colonel told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz. “He would defeat all the enemies in America and the world-- and believe me they’re plentiful—and he’d do it with everyone else’s blood. John is like Dick Cheney, never served a day in his life and wouldn't serve a day in his life … These people make me sick.” 
As Andrew Rosenthal noted in an editorial for the NY Times last week, "It’s rather amazing that Bolton and co are playing such prominent roles in the campaign; their ideas have been discredited and, by right, they should be hiding in undisclosed locations or at least enjoying early retirements as adjunct professors at third-rate universities-- not blathering on television and feeding a possible future president talking points."

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