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Mitt Romney’s Lehman Moment?

3:21 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Did Mitt Romney, in his ill timed and ill conceived commentary on the violence in North Africa, just doom his presidential aspirations the way John McCain did in 2008 when he said that the economy was on sound footing just as Lehman Brothers collapsed? In a twinkling of a political eye Mitt Romney through his remarks on the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans has taken his focus off of the one topic where he has an advantage over Barack Obama, the economy, and redirected it to foreign policy, a subject where his campaign performance thus far has been woefully inadequate if not outright abysmal. As a result Romney has introduced the issues of his own lack of foreign policy heft and judgment into the race at what couldn’t be a worse time.

By now it is more than evident that Romney jumped to conclusions, those based on an absence of chronologically verifiable facts, in framing his condemnation of the president for a statement put out by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. The subject statement appeared six hours before the first protests and well over twelve hours before the deaths of American diplomatic personnel in Libya. The chronology of those events can be found in “What They Said, Before and After the Attack in Libya”, referenced below. This raises three fundamental questions. One, was Romney compelled to act in haste in addressing developments in Libya and Egypt as a result of the scathing criticism that he received from the far right and those conservatives who had raised questions about his chances of success only the day before, particularly those who suggested that he hasn’t been forceful enough? Or is it the case that Romney just doesn’t have the requisite background and temperament to adequately deal with fast moving foreign policy issues and as a result is prone to poor decision making when these issues are front and center? Lastly, is Romney too influenced by a claque of Iraq War era Neoconservatives who have him simply parroting those old canards that Obama is an “apologist” for America, a sympathizer who cares more about radical Islam than his own country and someone who doesn’t truly believe in American Exceptionalism?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions then Mitt Romney has proven one thing to the American people and that is that he is a deeply flawed candidate when it comes to foreign policy and crisis management and thus ill suited to be this country’s Commander-in-Chief. It’s more than a bit ironic that after doubling down on his ill conceived comments, Romney has yet to come out and condemn the man who produced the controversial film that mocks the Prophet Mohamed or the incendiary pastor, Terry Jones, whose previous actions in threatening to burn Korans set off a wave of earlier violence across the Muslim world. Political columnist Howard Fineman, appearing on MSNBC’s Hardball, summed up Romney’s performance as follows: “He got the facts wrong. And it’s a classic case of jumping out ahead of a fast-moving story, chasing what you think is some kind of immediate political gain. He [Obama] never sympathized or apologized. Mitt Romney is pursuing a political strategy that is so nakedly and obviously political…I don’t see Mitt Romney having studied his career as that much of a foreign policy guy. He never has been. He was plugged into the NeoCon view in about 2007, and that was the beginning of his foreign policy education, and that’s still where he is.” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson appearing on the same program stated that Romney’s actions gave rise to questions about his overall judgment and character.

Another ominous development for Romney’s is the almost total silence on Capitol Hill and among the Republican establishment where almost no one has come to his defense. In fact most of the support Romney has received thus far has come from the very critics who just three days ago where suggesting that his campaign was doomed to failure. In stark contrast to the questionable support Romney is getting from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol, Laura Ingraham et al., is the flak he taking from those on the right who you would expect to be in his corner. Here are several examples. Reliable Republican cheer leader Peggy Noonan: “When you step forward in the midst of a political environment and start giving statements on something dramatic and violent that has happened, you’re always leaving yourself open to accusations that you are trying to exploit things politically.” Mark Salter, a former McCain operative and regular critic of Obama’s foreign policy none the less criticized Romney’s actions: “However, his [Obama's] policies are not responsible for the attacks on our embassy in Cairo and our consulate in Benghazi or the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. In the wake of this violence, the rush by Republicans — including Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and scores of other conservative critics — to condemn him for policies they claim helped precipitate the attacks is as tortured in its reasoning as it is unseemly in its timing…Moreover, the embassy’s statement was released before the attack, and was not, according to administration officials, approved by the State Department. If that’s true, it cannot be fairly attributed to the president…I understand the Romney campaign is under pressure from some Republicans to toughen its attacks on the president…But this is hardly the issue or the moment to demonstrate a greater resolve to take the fight to the president. Four good Americans, brave and true, have just died in service to their country…Nothing said or done by the president or anyone in the U.S. government is responsible for the violence that led to their deaths.” The National Journal’s Ron Fournier: “Romney’s actions are ham-handed and inaccurate.” Ben Smith of BuzzFeed: “If you think the eye-rolling at Romney is just coming from the MSM, call up some Republican foreign policy hands.” Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough: “I’ve been inundated with emails and calls from elected GOP leaders who think Romney’s response was a mistake.” Bush era Ambassador Nicholas Burns: “I was frankly very disappointed and dismayed to see Governor Romney inject politics into this very difficult situation, where our embassies are under attack, where there’s been a big misunderstanding in the Middle East, apparently, about an American film, where we’re trying to preserve the lives of our diplomats — this is no time for politics.” Conservative writer David Frum: “The Romney campaign’s attempt to score political points on the killing of American diplomats was a dismal business in every respect.” And even Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly: “I’m not sure the governor is correct on that. The embassy was trying to head off the violence” with their statement.” The bottom line is this, Mitt Romney has violated a cardinal rule of American politics, one promoted by Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg, that politics stops at the shoreline.

As serious a mistake as Romney has made this week it’s hardly an isolated incident. Earlier in the year when the Obama administration was locked in a controversy with the Chinese Government over a dissident who had taken refuge in the American Embassy and who then left it as part of a diplomatic deal, Romney inserted himself into the proceedings, again jumping the gun on events, saying that it “was a day of shame for the Obama administration. Romney was rebuked for his “foolish” remarks by none other than William Kristol of the conservative Weekly Standard. The dissident is now residing in the United States. Romney’s misguided approach to understanding foreign policy was on display again when he stated that Russia is America’s primary foreign policy concern: “Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe”; a statement that would lead to Colin Powell’s blunt rebuke: “I don’t know who all of his advisers are, but I’ve seen some of the names, and some of them are quite far to the right, and sometimes they, I think, might be in a position to make judgments or recommendations to the candidate that should get a second thought. For example, when Governor Romney not too long ago said, you know, the Russian Federation is our number-one geostrategic threat. Well, c’mon Mitt, think. It isn’t the case.” Earlier this summer Romney would question to what extent President Obama understood our special relationship with Great Britain only to then embarrass himself by publicly criticizing the London Olympics which, in turn, resulted in his being publicly scolded by the both the British Prime Minister and the Mayor of London. The remainder of Romney’s European tour was marred by misstatements and missteps culminating in a world wind tour of self inflicted political pratfalls.

Romney has been peddling the fantasy that if he were president or if elected that somehow he’d be able to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. At the same time he’s blaming Obama for the nuclear progress that Iran has thus far made. This of course, on its face, is seen to be an act of intellectual dishonesty coming from a candidate who is willingly ignoring the facts. In the words of veteran foreign affairs correspondent David Sanger, “The economic sanctions Mr. Obama has imposed have been far more crippling to the Iranian economy than anything President Bush did between the public revelation of Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities in 2003 and the end of Mr. Bush’s term in early 2009. Covert action has been stepped up, too. Mr. Bolton has called efforts to negotiate with Iran “delusional,” but other advisers — mostly those who dealt with the issue during the Bush administration — say they are a critical step in holding together the European allies and, if conflict looms, proving to Russia and China that every effort was made to come to a peaceful resolution.” Sanger in his op-ed “Is There a Romney Doctrine?” lays waste to the claim that the president has pursued a policy of appeasement showing how “the arrival of the general election requires Mr. Romney to grapple with the question of how to attack a Democratic president whose affection for unilateral use of force — from drones over Pakistan and Yemen to a far greater role for the Special Operations command — has immunized him a bit from the traditional claim that Democrats can’t stand the sight of hard power.” To this one should add the fact that Obama engineered the removal of Muammar Gaddafi without a single American casualty and that from Osama bin Laden down to rank and file Al Qaeda operatives the Obama Administration’s actions have killed hundreds of America’s enemies. This alone stands in stark contrast to conservative claims that Barack Obama is prone to appeasement. Sanger in the “The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power”, published in 2009, detailed how both Iran and North Korea had greatly expanded their nuclear programs as America was distracted by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That said it’s somewhat odd that Romney has resurrected the saber rattling of the now discredited NeoCons in calling for a more muscular American military posture overseas and that just when two thirds of Americans feel that the war in Iraq did nothing to make the country safer and at a time when America’s infrastructure is in need of serious investment at home. With regard to relations with Israel Romney’s criticism amounts to nothing more than the same old sound bites on the one hand and a pandering to the Jewish vote on the other. This is hardly the commentary of one experienced in the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict and certainly not one that accounts for the changed political landscape of the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring.

In his quest for the Oval Office Mitt Romney has attempted to sell himself to the American people as an accomplished businessman who would use the skills acquired in private equity to better run the business of government. Yet to date there has been little in the way of “actionable intelligence” that would lead the American voter to see Mr. Romney’s electioneering as anything other than a plea to take a leap of faith in casting one’s vote for him. This is particularly true with regard to his ability to intelligently address matters of foreign policy as Commander-in-Chief, a role where the president can affect events far more significantly than he can when dealing with economic affairs. For you see America isn’t a corporation where a CEO is beholden only to shareholders. A president has roles and responsibilities to fill that are far beyond the scope of a corporate leader. We’ve elected businessmen to the presidency before, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush and none of them have been considered in the long run to be great presidents. Romney has now come under fire from John McCain for failing to articulate his own detailed foreign policy program. Then again Romney hasn’t detailed anything in the way of a detailed program as to how he would turn the economy around, an area of his supposed expertise, so why would anyone be surprised that he’s not even outlined one for foreign affairs, a subject where he has proven himself to be wholly out of his league? David Ignatius of the Washington Post described Mitt Romney as a man having “no grasp of foreign affairs” whose approach to the subject amounts to a “series of sound bites” all of which portray a candidate who knows little about a subject of the utmost importance. With Mr. Ignatius’ observations in mind I believe we may have reached a tipping point in the 2012 election much the same as we were in September of 2008. The latest polls show Romney falling behind the president in key swing states and events in the Muslim world may still go against Barack Obama. However, the poll results that hit the newswires this morning are based on data that predate Romney’s latest gaffe and as a result Americans may still favor Obama when the see the next round of polling and especially when they consider this latest episode in a recurring series of Romney foreign policy disasters.

Steven J. Gulitti



What They Said, Before and After the Attack in Libya;

Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones backs anti-Muhammad movie;

Hardball with Chris Matthews for Wednesday, September 12th, 2012;

Peggy Noonan: “Romney Is Not Doing Himself Any Favors”;

Noonan: Romney not helping himself;

Don’t Politicize Embassy Attacks;

Romney and Foreign Policy;

Even As Experts, GOP Figures Criticize Romney’s Embassy Statement, Right-Wing Pundits Blame “The Media”;

Mitt Romney Response To Libya, Egypt Attacks Called ‘Irresponsible,’ ‘Craven,’ ‘Ham-Handed’;

Bloody Bill Kristol Calls Romney’s Attacks Over Chinese Dissident ‘Foolish’;

Romney: Russia is our number one geopolitical foe;

Why Colin Powell Bashed Mitt Romney’s Foreign-Policy Advisers;

David Sanger : Is There a Romney Doctrine?;

Marist Polling:

9/13: Obama Leads Romney by 7 Points in Ohio

9/13: Obama with Advantage Over Romney in Florida

9/13: Obama Up Five Points Over Romney in Virginia

Rasmussen Reports;

Romney Rolled by the Far Right?

5:43 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Oh well, it looks like someone broke the Etch-A-Sketch. After being hagridden for the past few weeks by the talking heads of America’s far right from Rush Limbaugh to Sean Hannity to Ann Coulter to finally Laura Ingraham who said “I might be the skunk at the picnic, but I’m going to say it and I’m going to say it clearly, “Romney is losing.”; Mitt Romney may have elected for what amounts to a the ultimate “Hail Mary” pass in finally settling on Paul Ryan for his V.P. pick. After all when one of the country’s most stridently didactic ideologues, Erick Erickson, comes out and says “Conservatives have put aside their distrust of Romney on this issue [Romney's Massachusetts Health Care Law] in the name of beating Barack Obama. They thought he and his campaign team had gotten the message and the hints. Consider the scab picked, the wound opened, and the distrust trickling out again.” – did Romney have any other choice? Other possible contenders like Rob Portman and Tim Pawlenty would have amounted to adding more blandness to an already bland campaign. Marco Rubio, a definite Tea Party favorite, was just too inexperienced, Chris Christie too bombastic and disinterested anyway. However the real question is will the selection of Paul Ryan ultimately doom Romney’s hopes of being elected? Has Romney now baked failure into his own cake?

Romney has been stumbling and fumbling of late having been successfully “swift boated” by the Obama machine and for the lingering questions related to releasing more tax returns as well as questions as to would he ever define what he’d actually do as president. Recent polling, for what it’s worth in August, showed Romney slipping behind Obama, especially in swing states. By selecting Paul Ryan, Romney has added substance to a campaign seen to be largely devoid of it. However, what if Romney has added the wrong ingredients to his political stew? After all Paul Ryan’s budget plans have never been popularly embraced in the body politic beyond ultraconservatives. Quoting Brett LoGiurato of Business Insider “It hasn’t been polled for a while, but most polls of Ryan’s budget plan don’t produce sparkling reviews. Ryan’s proposal didn’t poll well in a May 2011 CNN survey, which showed that 48 percent of respondents preferred President Barack Obama’s approach to Medicare compared to 39 percent on the plan spearheaded by Ryan. Overall, about 20 percent more people opposed Ryan’s Medicare plan than supported it. The poll also found that both younger and older voters were cool to Ryan’s plan. Forty-three percent of voters 64 years old and younger thought Ryan’s plan’s changes would make things at least a “little worse off.” And 58 percent of respondents 65 and older said the same thing — including 33 percent who said it would make them “a lot worse off.” Finally, 50 percent of voters overall thought it would make the country worse off as a whole, compared with 38 percent who said it would make it better. The most eye-popping stat from the poll? More than a quarter of Republicans — and 35 percent of self-identified conservatives — opposed the Ryan plan.” Furthermore, the selection of Ryan allows Obama to bring the issue of a do nothing obstructionist Congress squarely to center stage. With congressional approval ratings at an all time low, particularly for Republicans, and public frustration with Congressional Tea Party obstruction more or less a constant, Paul Ryan will act as a handy punching bag for the Obama machine thereby saddling Romney with the negatives that flow from this highly unpopular Republican dominated Congress. Thus it’s not likely that Paul Ryan will save Mitt Romney any more than Sarah Palin was able to revitalize the McCain campaign.

In an environment where the public longs for bi-partisan cooperation and problem solving the selection of Ryan sends a message that compromise isn’t on the agenda for the G.O.P. Nate Silver of the New York Times in an article titled “A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan” suggests that Romney’s choice of Ryan has less to do with pressure from the ideological purists on the right and more to do with the fact that Romney himself realized that his campaign was faltering: “When a prudent candidate like Mitt Romney picks someone like Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate, it suggests that he felt he held a losing position against President Obama. The theme that Mr. Romney’s campaign has emphasized for months and months — that the president has failed as an economic leader — may have persuaded 47 or 48 or 49 percent of voters to back him, he seems to have concluded. But not 50.1 percent of them, and not enough for Mr. Romney to secure 270 electoral votes.” Silver goes on to show how Paul Ryan, on the basis of political philosophy, is the most ideologically extreme pick for Vice president ever: “Various statistical measures of Mr. Ryan peg him as being quite conservative. Based on his Congressional voting record, for instance, the statistical system DW-Nominate evaluates him as being roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota…Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900. He is also more conservative than any Democratic nominee was liberal, meaning that he is the furthest from the center.” In a country seen as being fairly split down the middle and with politics being played, as conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer says, “between the 40 yard lines” it would appear that picking the most conservative running mate ever would be a losing proposition if not a reckless one.

Time and again we’ve heard the ideologues on the far right state that when the G.O.P. picks candidates that stray from the movement’s core conservative values the party loses. John McCain is held up as the latest example of this and more often than not Ronald Reagan is held up a an example of what being true to core conservative values is all about. The only problem with that is the fact that Reagan was conservative in his rhetoric but he was hardly a guy to trim the size of government, cut taxes or attempt to dismantle the social safety net. Moreover, he was a master at compromise, something that today’s conservatives detest. Suffice it to say that even Ronald Reagan would have problems in today’s Republican Party, how could he not? Historically the issues that Ryan has raised in his budget and which the Tea Party backed Republicans in Congress have taken on are political losers for the G.O.P. John Harris and Mike Allen writing for Politico pointed out “It is hard to overstate the risks Romney is taking in making a choice that virtually guarantees a far-reaching debate about the broader role of government and the entitlement state. Simply put, it is a debate Republicans have almost never won when they’ve put it directly before voters in the past.”

Thus in picking a candidate that more than ever personifies the values of the far right what are we to conclude of the logic inherent in the conservative mantra “that when the G.O.P. picks candidates that stray from the movement’s core conservative values the party loses.” if they indeed go on to lose this election? Will picking Paul Ryan then be seen to be a mistake as it moved the Romney message beyond the pale of the moderates and independent voters thereby costing the Republican Party what should have been an easy victory? For one thing there’s no evidence I’ve ever seen that suggests that a president is elected because of the guy he picked to be vice president. In fact Nate Silver’s article shows that vice presidential picks have more downside to them than upside. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I believe that Ryan will ultimately have a downside impact on Romney’s chances of being elected. Secondly now that Romney has saddled him with Ryan and his unpopular reputation for cutting back on entitlements, privatizing them where possible and cutting taxes on the richest among us the election has ceased to be a referendum on Obama’s performance and has become a choice election between two competing visions of America. Obama was unlikely to win on a straight referendum of his economic performance but his chances have now improved in the long haul due to the negatives that come with Paul Ryan, his budgetary ideas and his recycled supply-side economic theories that have already been tired and seen to fail in the past. In the short run Romney’s numbers may see a brief boost in the ratings game but in the long run Ryan and his ultra conservative baggage are more likely to be an albatross around Mitt Romney’s neck ands that’s hardly where a candidate wants to be heading into a presidential election.

S.J. Gulitti



Laura Ingraham Tears Into Romney Campaign: He Needs New Communications Team, Strategy;

Romney aide’s health care remarks spark flap;

Should Mitt Romney fire his spokeswoman?;

Rush Limbaugh Wants Mitt Romney To Fire His Top Advisors And Hire ‘Real Conservatives’;

The Moment All the Doubts About Romney Resurfaced on the Right;

Here’s The Gigantic Risk Mitt Romney Is Taking With Paul Ryan;

A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan;

Paul Ryan Is The Most Extreme VP Candidate In More Than A Century;

Pros And Cons: Ryan As Romney’s VP;

Paul Ryan VP pick shakes up Mitt Romney battle plan;

Does the G.O.P. Need to Doctor Up Mitt Romney?‏

8:13 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Now here’s a compelling question. Does the G.O.P. and the conservative elite need to doctor up Mitt Romney so as to make him seem conservative enough to be electable? It’s no secret that large numbers of conservatives don’t see Romney as a fellow traveler and that poses two great risks to the G.O.P., the prospect of a third party bid, a sure formula for defeat, or the other equally unattractive option, a conservative voters strike on election day. If conservative voters decide to “hold their noses and vote for Romney” so much the better for the Republican elite. They’re more than happy to co-opt the votes of the far right so long as they don’t have to let them into those “quiet rooms” where they actually formulate policy.
Since Romney’s Florida primary victory and since his latest gaffe, there has been a raft of criticism from the right, aimed directly at him. Representative of these attacks is Jonah Goldberg who penned “What’s Wrong With This Guy?”; to wit:”Congratulations to Mitt Romney for his big win last night. It was a win that, Romney supporters hoped, would help bury concerns about his ability to seal the deal to do what it takes.  But I’m not so sure…As a bunch of us have been writing around here for a while, the under-emphasized dynamic in this race isn’t that Romney isn’t conservative enough (though that’s obviously a real concern out there) it’s that he’s simply not a good enough politician. He may be the most electable on paper. He’s certainly a nice guy, decent father, smart, successful etc. But, every time he seems to get into his groove and pull away he says things that make people think he doesn’t know how to play the game. That can be reassuring to some, who take it as proof he’s not another politician. The problem, for others at least, is that because he isn’t a natural politician he breaks the language where it needs to bend. He uses language — “I like to fire people!” “It’s nothing to get angry about” etc — that doesn’t make him seem like an unconventional politician. Rather his language makes him seem like a caricature of a conventionally stiff country club Republican.”
Then there’s Laura Ingraham who wrote “I Don’t Know If Mitt Romney Can Beat’ Obama”. Ingraham, nobody’s “progressive” said: “A bunch of us sitting next to each other– very prominent conservatives, former Bush Cabinet members — we’re looking at each other going, ‘I don’t know if Mitt Romney can beat him…He’s got to bring his A-game, and he can’t just do, you know, the kind of thing he’s doing with Gingrich, because Obama’s operation is really smart…And I think they’re going to run a tough campaign.” And let’s not forget that stalwart of conservative stalwarts, Rush Limbaugh. Quoting a piece appearing in the Huffington Post: “Rush Limbaugh threw up his hands on his Wednesday show, laying into Mitt Romney for his comments that he is “not concerned about the very poor” because they have a safety net. Limbaugh said Romney is making it harder and harder to beat President Obama.” And in Limbaugh’s own words “He comes across as the prototypical rich Republican. And it’s gonna make it harder and harder and harder and harder to go after Obama because this turns around on him. You know, all these Wizards of Smart in the Republican establishment say, ‘We can’t have Newt out there! Why, Newt’s gonna be the topic. We need Obama to be the topic. We need Obama to be the guy campaign’s about. If Newt’s out there, it’s only gonna be about Newt.’ Well, what evidence is there that it’s not gonna be about Romney with these kinds of statements?”
I could probably go on digging up similar statements revealing the alarm coursing through the conservative movement resulting from the prospect of Mitt Romney as nominee but the three aforementioned sources are pretty typical of the far right’s chattering class. You can bet your bottom dollar that the same degree of alarm is afoot within the Republican elite when they consider the image of the chimerical con man Newt Gingrich as the Party’s standard bearer. But just going with the conventional thinking for the moment, that Romney will be the eventual nominee, are we in fact, looking at the best of several bad choices? Does Romney have so many flaws regarding his ability to connect with voters, some of it the result of his vast wealth, that he is essentially in need of a image rehabilitation so as to make him presentable in November?  Does this very issue detract from his electability to the point that it may cost the Republican’s the election in November, a contest that should be able to win, all factors being equal? Is there, in fact, even enough time to affect such a rehabilitation of Mitt Romney’s image and won’t that effort in and of itself create a new avenue of attack for the Obama campaign? Will the leadership of the G.O.P. in their post mortems of 2012 sit back and wonder why the Party couldn’t have found a strong, suitable and engaging candidate with which to knock off a less than stellar incumbent? There are already a multitude of questions raining down on the G.O.P. as to whether or not it has done a good job in launching its bid to retake the White House. The more mistakes and questions that surface regarding Romney, the more difficult the campaign against Barack Obama grows going forward.
Steven J. Gulitti

What is Wrong With This Guy?

Laura Ingraham: ‘I Don’t Know If Mitt Romney Can Beat’ Obama;

Rush Limbaugh On Mitt Romney’s ‘Very Poor’ Comments: He Sounds Like ‘The Prototypical Rich Republican’;