Was presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s a big success that will burnish his foreign policy credentials in the general election? Or was it another gaffe fest? Our political Quote of the Day comes via First Read which argues there were no major disasters on it to feed the perception reflected in the Wolverton cartoon above.
But it (again) wasn’t something that takes him beyond playing to the GOP base:
*** Recapping Romney’s Israel stop: Fortunately for Mitt Romney and his campaign, the visit to Israel went much smoother than the stop in Great Britain. But there were still some snafus… In his speech yesterday in Jerusalem, Romney checked all the boxes. He embraced Israel. “We’re part of the great fellowship of democracies. We speak the same language of freedom and justice, and the right of every person to live in peace.” He talked tough on Iran. “We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option. We must lead the effort to prevent Iran from building and possessing nuclear weapons capability.” And he even made a subtle dig at President Obama, referring to the tension between the Obama administration and Israel’s conservative Netanyahu government. “Diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries.” But what Romney DIDN’T SAY was almost as striking — if not more so. Not once did he utter the phrase “peace process” nor the words “Palestine” or “Palestinian,” and that also means he never talked about or made the case for a two-state solution. Was the speech for anyone other than base Republicans? This trip to Israel felt like a primary trip, not one aimed at the general election.
*** More snafus: As mentioned above, Team Romney still had some problems while in Israel. For starters, a top adviser on Israel matters — Dan Senor — suggested that Romney was set to support a unilateral strike by Israel on Iran, the New York Times noted. “If Israel has to take action on its own, the governor would respect that decision,” Senor said in a briefing before Romney’s speech yesterday. But Romney later walked back Senor’s remarks, telling ABC: “I think I’ll use my own terms in that regard and that is that I recognize the right of Israel to defend itself.” Also, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Romney canceling his meeting with an Israeli opposition party figure upset folks there. And a Palestinian official criticized Romney for asserting that Jerusalem is Israel’s true capital, the AP said. “The Palestinians want to establish a capital in east Jerusalem, captured and annexed by Israel in 1967. Most of the world, including the U.S., does not recognize the annexation. The U.S. and others keep their embassies in Tel Aviv.” What’s more the same Palestinian official also criticized Romney for suggesting that Israel’s culture is superior to the Palestinians’. So it wasn’t England, but Romney was still 1) making folks mad, and 2) having to walk back remarks.
1. His trip was not as successful as Barack Obama’s foreign trip as a Presidential candidate. These trips are “do no harm” trips where there may be some residue backlash (Obama’s actually seemed to hurt him in the polls afterwards since voters apparently concluded it was what it was: an exercise in image enhancement). Controversies are not meant to swirl around a candidate.
2. The Romney narrative continues: he continues to run a campaign playing to the party’s base and not trying to expand his existing constituency, which in some cases supports him not because they like him but because they hate Obama. This could be a smart strategy if, in fact, due to the economy’s performance his attraction as the anti-Obama remains strong. But his trip didn’t alter his existing space in the political spectrum or expand his existing constituency.
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Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.