Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mitt's magical apology tour

What on earth?

[I apologize(!) to my readers for excessive focus on politics... this election should be over soon.]

In the last debate, on foreign policy, Mitt Romney was even more muddled and brazen than in the prior ones. He agreed with every substantive point Obama made, yet claimed that somehow he would do things better and differenter. He wanted to get tougher on Iran, while assuring everyone he didn't want to get into any wars or anything. He wanted to start a trade war with China, despite having been busy shipping jobs and capital there over the years. He wanted more peace in the Middle East, but by using the attitudes and policies of the Bush administration. He wanted to "help move Pakistan in the right direction", but agreed with the US troop pullout from Afghanistan and our aid policies to Pakistan. And as usual, he wanted to spend more money on the military, and much more on tax breaks, and magically balance the budget as well. It only makes sense if he is lying about everything except his self-confidence. He wants to be president very badly, but apparently being a stuffed shirt for the ongoing class war by the severely conservative right is about as high as his policy ambitions go.

But, among all the crocodile tears, what was most grating was his repetition of the "apology tour" meme. This vitriolic invention of the FOX cesspool, which Romney picked up and used as a title for his campaign book, is one of those primitive psychological constructions the Republicans are so adept at, like tax relief and death panels. During the debate, Romney said:
"We're also going to have to have a far more effective and comprehensive strategy to help move the world away from terror and Islamic extremism. We haven't done that yet. We talk a lot about these things, but you look at the - the record, you look at the record. You look at the record of the last four years and say is Iran closer to a bomb? Yes. Is the Middle East in tumult? Yes. Is - is al-Qaida on the run, on its heels? No. Is - are Israel and the Palestinians closer to reaching a peace agreement?"

Now, how would one actually go about moving the world away from extremism and towards something like, say, the Arab spring? One might take a tour of Arab countries and talk about universal values of human rights, democracy, and self-determination, while subtly making it clear that the Bush administration has been succeeded, via orderly and democratic means, by a quite different administration, no less focused on US national interests, but less bellicose about bulldozing other countries to get there, and possessing a vision of US interests as compatible with peaceful coexistence and mutual respect rather than "You're with us or you're against us".

Rhetorically, Romney wanted to double down on all the good things that Obama has done, (you almost thought an apology was coming for saying all those bad things otherwise!), but in a way that takes us right back to the bluster and sabre-rattling of the last administration which was so offensive and counter-productive. We have more friends now in the Arab world than when Bush was in office, particularly among the people rather than the dictators, because of better foreign policy.

Certainly, much remains to be done. For instance, the Palestinian peace process, which Romney explicitly blamed Obama for not advancing, isn't going to be helped by the US being Israel's lapdog, which is Romney's official policy. That isn't a vision of strength, as far as I can see. Just like our last president, Romney seems to have a rather immature horror of apologizing for anything, and something of a toy soldiers approach to world affairs, not to mention a tin ear for diplomacy, as we saw in Britain. We can do better.

[As a final note, there must be some good omen in a World Series between two of the bluest cities around.]

"... Hitler managed to override the usual objections to stimulus."

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