Romney Foreign Policy Tour Turns Into Gaffe Watch

WASHINGTON – THE POLITICAL MALPRACTICE of the Romney campaign continues at breathtaking speed. The political incompetence is mounting on multiple fronts, so you’ll have to game up to keep up. Now, not only did Mitt Romney insult Great Britain on the Olympic games, but he also appeared to have forgotten Labour Party leader’s Ed Miliband’s name.

We also had the Anglo-Saxon weirdness, and then yesterday Bill Kristol called Mitt Romney out on his veracity in suggesting that Ronald Reagan went short on national security in his first 100 days.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Mitt Romney is recounting a Jim Baker anecdote in which President Reagan ordered Baker, as White House chief of staff, to hold no national security meetings over a hundred day period early in his first term so that President Reagan and his team could focus on the economy. If the Journal’s reporting is accurate—and I don’t believe the Romney camp has challenged it—Romney should stop telling this false and foolish tale.

Here’s the reporting:

Mr. Romney made that clear [that he's most focused on the economy] at a July fundraiser in Montana as he rehashed the challenges Mr. Reagan faced when he took office. He recounted how [James] Baker, a former secretary of state, held a national security meeting about Latin America during the first 100 days of Mr. Reagan’s presidency. “And after the meeting, President Reagan called me in and said, ‘I want no more national-security meetings over the next 100 days—all of our time has to be focused on getting our economy going,’” Mr. Romney recalled Mr. Baker saying.

For one thing, as Marc Thiessen points out, the fact that Romney’s recounting this anecdote doesn’t reflect well on Romney’s understanding of the job he’s campaigning for…

Former Bush adviser mentioned in Kristol’s Weekly Standard post, Marc Thiessen, took to the American Enterprise Institute website because Romney’s allegations against Reagan upset him so. It’s Theissen emphasis on the word “desirable” below, though he chose italics over bold:

But the fact that Romney thinks it would be desirable to ignore the world for his first 100 days is troubling. Yes, the American people are focused on the economy — and understandably so. But Romney isn’t running for Treasury secretary — he is running for commander in chief. And those responsibilities begin on Day 1 of his presidency.

Segue to Sen. Diane Feinstein’s charge on leaks, which has turned into an embarrassment for her, as she backtracks, but even worse for the Romney campaign, because they decided to jump into the fray. Reviewing, this is what Feinstein said in remarks at the World Affairs Council, reported by Jake Tapper on Tuesday:

“The White House has to understand that some of this is coming from its ranks. I don’t know specifically where, but I think they have to begin to understand that and do something about it.” – Sen. Diane Feinstein

Her extended remarks are even worse.

Mitt Romney jumped on Feinstein’s criticism of the White House and attempted to turn it into an opportunity to bash Obama during his VFW speech on Tuesday.

“Lives of American servicemen and women are at stake. But astonishingly, the administration failed to change its ways. More top-secret operations were leaked, even some involving covert action going on in Iran. This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a national security crisis. And yesterday, Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, quote, ‘I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks.’ End of quote.”

Mr. Romney also said the “conduct is contemptible” and that it “betrays our national interest” and “compromises our men and women in the field.” He also demanded “a full and prompt investigation by a special counsel, with explanation and consequence.”

Then Team Romney sent out a surrogate with a statement, which Buzzfeed picked up. His name is Eric Edelman:

“Mitt Romney’s speech to the VFW convention was Reaganesque. In contrast to Barack Obama’s policies of vacillation and hesitation, Governor Romney set out a vision of determination and clarity of purpose. In place of Barack Obama’s apologies for America, Governor Romney set out principles and goals founded on our country’s enduring tradition of peace through strength. Our friends around the world who are looking for American leadership will be heartened by Romney’s plan for another American Century. The suggestion by Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that the White House was behind recent leaks of highly classified secrets, highlights the urgent need for change.”

You might be wondering who Eric Edelman is, which Joe hit yesterday in his unintentionally hilarious post. Well, as someone who knows Joe Wilson, a man who wrote the blurb for my book jacket, as well as having had the pleasure to interview both he and his wife, Valerie Plame, I can tell you buzzers went off on this one for me. So, let me digress to prove who Mitt Romney chose to allow to send out a statement on his behalf on LEAKS, of all things.

In the Scooter Libby indictment, page 6, the following appears:

13. Shortly after publication of the article in The New Republic, LIBBY spoke by telephone with his then Principal Deputy and discussed the article. That official asked LIBBY whether information about Wilson’s trip could be shared with the press to rebut the allegations that the Vice President had sent Wilson. LIBBY responded that there would be complications at the CIA in disclosing that information publicly, and that he could not discuss the matter on a non-secure telephone line.

14. On or about June 23, 2003, LIBBY met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller. During this meeting LIBBY was critical of the CIA, and disparaged what he termed “selective leaking” by the CIA concerning intelligence matters. In discussing the CIA’s handling of Wilson’s trip to Niger, LIBBY informed her that Wilson’s wife might work at a bureau of the CIA

“Information about Wilson’s trip” refers to the CIA and Valerie Plame.

“Then Principal Deputy,” who was originally incorrectly identified by the Washington Post as John Hannah, but then corrected, is Eric Adelman.

Mr. Edelman’s statement on Feinstein’s remarks, which the Romney campaign blasted out, were as follows:

Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman today made the following statement on Mitt Romney’s speech to the VFW:

“Mitt Romney’s speech to the VFW convention was Reaganesque. In contrast to Barack Obama’s policies of vacillation and hesitation, Governor Romney set out a vision of determination and clarity of purpose. In place of Barack Obama’s apologies for America, Governor Romney set out principles and goals founded on our country’s enduring tradition of peace through strength. Our friends around the world who are looking for American leadership will be heartened by Romney’s plan for another American Century. The suggestion by Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that the White House was behind recent leaks of highly classified secrets, highlights the urgent need for change.

…that the White House was behind recent leaks of highly classified secrets…

It’s hard to imagine any presidential campaign fumbling this so thoroughly, but you can always count on Team Romney.

But it should give you enough evidence to understand why Pres. Obama still has a chance to win in November. With an economy like today’s, it’s hard to imagine how Mitt Romney isn’t leading at this point.

As the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney has turned into a handicap.

Romney and his campaign are stumbling from one self-inflicted Etch A Sketch moment to the mandate “is a tax,” to the current photo op foreign policy tour, to Republicans killing him on releasing more taxes, then turning around and gutting him on national security claims about Ronald Reagan. And now the Romney campaign sends the man who suggested leaking the CIA’s involvement in Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger by leaking CIA NOC Valerie Plame’s name to Judith Miller (the woman who forwarded the fabricated aluminum tube story and the New York Times printed anyway), out to castigate the Obama administration on –wait for it– leaks.

If Mitt Romney can’t vet his own national security campaign surrogates, how can he navigate, let alone lead, the largest industrial military complex in the world?

What we’re watching right now is positively stunning.

I said from the start of the 2012 campaign there was little hope Mitt Romney could compete on foreign policy or national security, but I never imagined he and his team would be this incompetent, let alone negligent.

Taylor Marsh, a veteran political analyst and former Huffington Post contributor, is the author of The Hillary Effect, available at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon. Her new-media blog www.taylormarsh.com covers national politics, women and power.

Paul Szep cartoon used with permission.