Mitt Romney repeated his contention that Syria is Iran’s “route to the sea.” This is a puzzling claim, considering that Syria shares no border with Iran — Iraq and Turkey are in the way — and that Iran has about 1,500 miles of coastline along the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, leading to the Arabian Sea. The Fact Checker column has looked into this before.
Obama schools Romney on the fact that we have “fewer horses and bayonets.”
— by David A. Harris
President Obama’s statements of unequivocal support for Israel tonight — including his commitment to stand by Israel if it is attacked by Iran — is just the latest demonstration of this President’s rock-solid commitment to the Jewish state and its security. His words speak for themselves, and indeed they speak so powerfully that all Governor Mitt Romney could do was chime in with a quiet ‘me too’ reply. In fact, Governor Romney tonight just continued to mislead the American people about President Obama’s record — especially concerning Israel and Iran. For pro-Israel voters, only one candidate in this race has a proven record when it comes to standing up for Israel’s security, and those voters were reminded of that tonight. President Obama showed — in this exchange, and throughout the evening — why and how he has stewarded the U.S.-Israel relationship and the effort to halt Iran so powerfully and with maturity, seriousness and confidence over the past four years.
Rush transcript of Obama’s remarks (emphasis added):
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, Israel is a true friend, it is our greatest ally in the region, and if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel. I have made that clear throughout my presidency.
MODERATOR BOB SCHIEFFER: So you are saying-you have already made that declaration?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I will stand with Israel if they are attacked, and this is the reason why, working with Israel we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history.
In fact, this week we will be carrying out the largest military exercise with Israel in history, this very week, but to the issue of Iran, as long as I’m President of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. I made that clear when I came into office. We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in a shambles. And the reason we did this is because a nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security and it’s a threat to Israel’s national security.
We cannot afford to have a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, and for them to be able to provide nuclear technology to non-state actors, that’s unacceptable. And they have said that they want to see Israel wiped off the map. So the work that we’ve done with respect to sanctions now offers Iran a choice. They can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program or they will have to face a united world and a United States President, me, who said we’re not going to take any options off the table.
The disagreement I have with Governor Romney is that during the course of this campaign he has often talked as if we should take premature military action. I think that would be a mistake because when I sent young men and women into harm’s way, I always understand that that is the last resort, not the first resort.
The American Jewish Committee has posted answers to President Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s responses to a questionnaire from the organization.
Four questions have been posted so far. Question 5 follows below. The remaining questions and the responses from the two candidates will be posted daily over the next week. Stay tuned.
Question 5: More than sixty years after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism continues to be a major element in political discourse and manifest itself in criminal acts in parts of Europe, Latin America and elsewhere. In Arab states, religious pluralism and tolerance of minority faiths are frequently under challenge — and anti-Zionism all too often is revealed as hatred of Jews. What role do you think the U.S. can and should play in fighting anti-Semitism across the globe, and in combating racism and religious persecution more generally? What sanctions and other measures should be employed by the U.S. in response to systematic and egregious human rights violations by foreign nations?
Response from President Obama
“Never again” is a challenge to reject hatred in all of its forms — including anti-Semitism, which has no place in a civilized world. It is a challenge to defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security — and that includes the State of Israel. I’ll never forget what I saw at Buchenwald, where so many perished with the words of Sh’ma Yisrael on their lips. I’ve stood with survivors in the old Warsaw ghettos, and I’ve walked those sacred grounds at Yad Vashem. The Holocaust cannot be denied, and it cannot be forgotten.
The United States must always be on the front lines in standing against anti-Semitism. When children are taught anti-Semitism, we will speak out against it. When efforts are made to equate Zionism with racism, we reject them. When international bodies single out Israel with unfair resolutions, we vote against them. When attempts are made to delegitimize Israel, we oppose them. When faced today with a regime in Tehran that denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map, we make it clear we will do whatever is necessary to make sure Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon, putting our security and the security of our allies at risk.
Last year, I issued a presidential directive making it clear that preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States. That does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there’s an injustice in the world. We cannot and should not. But it does mean that we possess many tools — diplomatic and political, economic and financial, intelligence, military, and law enforcement, and, of course, our moral persuasion. Using these tools, we have stood up for the basic rights of people in places like Libya, Sudan, Cote D’Ivoire, Kyrgyzstan, and Uganda. And we will continue to do so, because it’s what we as Americans understand is the right thing to do.
Response from Governor Mitt Romney
Anti-Semitism is a poison. History has shown time and again that it is dangerous to the countries that ingest it, as it is dangerous to world peace. It’s an affront to the values of our civilization that the leaders of Iran openly peddle anti-Semitic ideas. Given Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls for the state of Israel to be wiped from the map, I will press for his indictment for the crime of incitement of genocide. I will lead the fight against the worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel in every forum and label it the anti-Semitic poison that it is. I will convene a summit that brings together world leaders, donor organizations, and young leaders of groups that espouse the principles of representative government, religious pluralism, economic opportunity, women’s and minority rights, and freedom of conscience in the Arab world. I will also speak forthrightly in defense of religious liberty, both here in the United States and abroad. The United States must be clear that to be fully trusted partners in the international system, nations must respect the human rights of their people.
President Barack Obama: Governor Romney, I’m glad that you recognize that Al Qaeda is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not Al Qaida; you said Russia, in the 1980s, they’re now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.
But Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.
President Barack Obama:“Governor, the problem is that on a whole range of issues, whether it’s the Middle East, whether it’s Afghanistan, whether it’s Iraq, whether it’s now Iran, you’ve been all over the map. I mean, I’m pleased that you now are endorsing our policy of applying diplomatic pressure and potentially having bilateral discussions with the Iranians to end their nuclear program, but just a few years ago you said that’s something you would never do in the same way that you initially opposed a timetable in Afghanistan. Now you’re for it, although it depends. In the same way that you say you would have ended the war in Iraq, but recently gave a speech saying that we should have 20,000 more folks in there. The same way that you said that it was mission creep to go after Qadhafi, when it comes to going after Osama bin Laden, when you were a candidate in 2008, I said if I had bin Laden in our view, I would take a shot.
“You said we should ask Pakistan for permission. If we asked Pakistan for permission, we would not have gotten it. It was worth moving heaven and earth to get him.
“I was at Ground Zero for a memorial and talked to a young woman who was four years old when 9/11 happened, and the last conversation she had with her father was him calling from the twin towers, saying I love you, and I will always watch over you. And for the next decade she was haunted by that conversation, and she said to me, you know, by finally getting bin Laden, that brought some closure to her. When we do things like that, when we bring those who have harmed us to justice, that sends a message to the world, and it tells that young lady that we did not forget her father. I make that point because that’s the kind of clarity of leadership and those decisions are not always popular, those decisions generally are not poll tested, and even some in my own party, including my current vice president had the same critique as you did. But what the American people understand is that I look at what we need to get done to keep the American people safe and to move our interests forward, and I make those decisions.”
— by Jason Berger
Tonight, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are squaring off in a foreign policy debate, giving the American people a glance at what their Commander in Chief will look like over the next four years. As American Jews, what the candidates say tonight will be particularly relevant to us. For us, the status of the US-Israel relationship, Israel’s security, and thwarting Iran’s nuclear program are particularly important issues. Between his comments and behavior surrounding U.S.-Russia relations, the successful raid on Osama Bin Laden, Iran sanctions, and security cooperation with Israel, Romney has shown that he is not ready to be Commander in Chief. Let’s review the governor’s flubs since he started running for president:
During his trip abroad in July, Romney had at least one gaffe at every single one of his stops:
- During Romney’s visit to London on the day of the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics, he insulted the British by saying that he saw, “a few things that were disconcerting,” questioning the UK’s preparedness.
- While in Jerusalem, Romney offended both the Israelis and Palestinians when he made an inappropriate comparison between the two nation’s cultures.
- In Poland, one of Governor Romney’s aides cursed at a reporter who was trying to ask a question while the campaign was making a visit at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
- Before he departed on his trip, NJDC issued 10 Israel questions for Romney to answer. A number of them remain unanswered.
While at home, Romney has also made quite a few relevant foreign policy gaffes:
- Romney pledged to “do the opposite” of President Obama on Israel, despite the unprecedented security cooperation between the United States and Israel.
- After his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Politifact gave his “apology tour” attack a Pants on Fire rating. Politifact said, “A review of Obama’s foreign travels and remarks during his early presidency showed no evidence to support such a blunt and disparaging claim.” Since the speech, this has been a common complaint from the Romney team in regards to Obama’s foreign policy.
- During his interview with Wolf Blitzer in March, Romney took his eye off of Iran and designated Russia as the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe.” Not only was his assertion panned by the foreign policy community, but he ignored the realities of Russo-American cooperation as well as Russo-Israeli cooperation.
- While stumping in 2008, Romney said that the United States should learn from the kind of diplomacy that Hezbollah employs in Lebanon.
- In a 2007 interview with the Associated Press, Romney when asked about finding Osama Bin Laden, he said,
“It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”
- Romney pledged during a debate to start all foreign aid at zero, despite the pro-Israel community opposing such alterations to the foreign aid budget.
Thus far, Romney has been unable to pass the Commander in Chief test on a number of issues. Judging by his foreign policy credentials alone, he’s clearly not ready for prime time.
— by Elizabeth Leibowitz
Contraception, choice, access to reproductive health care – these are terms synonymous with the all-encompassing phrase “women’s issues.” And yet, as President Barack Obama eloquently demonstrated in Tuesday’s presidential debate, “[t]hese are not just women’s issues. These are family issues. These are economic issues.” Access to affordable contraception is key if we wish for women to one day achieve equality in the workplace.
More after the jump.
Just this September the Guttmacher Institute published the results of a study that asked women to identify their reasons for using contraceptives and results were fascinating: 63 percent of respondents said their birth control allowed them to take better care of themselves or their families. What’s more, a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research released earlier this year found that the availability of oral contraception played a principal role in closing the gender wage gap since the 1980s. Being able to plan for children is necessary for women who wish to achieve their goals.
If we were to believe what Governor Mitt Romney said in Tuesday’s debate, we might think he agrees with the president:
“…I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care of not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”
But this answer is unrepresentative of Romney’s true views on the issue and provides another example of just how desperate the Governor is to win the election.
Aside from taking a stringently anti-choice stance from the beginning of his campaign, Romney has demonstrated that he is against access to contraception time and time again. The Governor has repeatedly said he would repeal Obamacare, once again placing the burden of paying for contraceptives on the shoulders of women. He has been vocal about his desire to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that serves as the only source of reproductive health care for many low-income women. He has even gone as far to voice his support for the Blunt Amendment, which would allow employers to deny contraception to their female employees based on religious objections. These are not the actions are someone supportive of contraception accessibility.
With this information, it’s not shocking to learn that Romney did not support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — he doesn’t seem to understand equality in the workplace is still unachievable for many women. The President, on the other hand, does. Between passing his landmark health care bill to signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act to ensuring that all women have access to affordable contraception, Obama understands that women’s issues are economic issues — even without “binders” of women.
The American Jewish Committee has posted answers to President Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s responses to a questionnaire from the organization.
Three questions have been posted so far. Question 4 follows below. The remaining questions and the responses from the two candidates will be posted daily over the next week. Stay tuned.
Question 4: In light of recent political upheavals across the Middle East and North Africa, what changes, if any, would you advocate in U.S. aid to, and relations with, the newly constituted Arab governments? What assurances would you require with regard to fighting terrorism, promoting democracy and human rights, protecting minorities, assuring equal treatment of women, curbing weapons proliferation, ending anti-Israel incitement, and advancing regional peace?
Response from President Obama
The popular movements that have reshaped the Arab world in the past year speak to some of America’s most deeply held values. In the Middle East and North Africa, the changes we are witnessing have been building for years. They are the expressions of a universal longing for self-representation, because all people should get to pick their leaders and have a say in the laws that govern their lives.
It will be many years before the story of the Arab Spring is complete. There are going to be huge challenges that come with change. But I believe that the United States will benefit from having partners in the region who complete their transitions to democracy — because ultimately democracies have proven to be our best friends in the world. Whenever people are reaching for the same democracy and basic human rights that the United States stands for, that is a good thing. That’s why my Administration has supported those aspirations, and opposed the use of violence against the people of the region.
As we support these democratic transitions, I have made it clear that I will stand up for America’s core interests in the region – including the security of Israel, countering terrorism, and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. And we will be steadfast in calling on the nations of the region to meet their international obligations as they go through these transitions. For example, we continue to provide assistance to Egypt because it’s in our interest to help them advance regional security. And we’ve made it clear that they must uphold their peace treaty with Israel and continue transitioning to democracy.
Ultimately, the people of the region themselves will determine the outcome of these upheavals. In some places, change will come faster than others, and progress will often come in fits and starts. But we are committed to helping these nations consolidate their democratic gains and working to further integrate them into the global economy.
Response from Governor Mitt Romney
- The United States cannot be neutral about the outcome of revolution and political upheaval across the Middle East and North Africa. To protect our national interests and to promote our ideals, my administration would support groups and governments seeking to advance the values of representative government, economic opportunity, and human rights, and oppose any extension of Iranian or jihadist influence.
- To improve and provide greater accountability to our efforts in the greater Middle East, I will reorganize all diplomatic and assistance efforts under one regional director, who unlike recent “special envoys” or region “czars,” will possess unified budgetary and policy authority. With real authority, this official will set regional priorities, craft a unified regional strategic plan, and properly direct our soft power toward promoting American interests in the region.
— by David Streeter
BuzzFeed reported that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is touting the support of Iran sanctions opponents as well as individuals with questionable Israel records. BuzzFeed reported:
[O]n the roster is George Salem, an advisor to global lobbying firm DLA Piper who has recently been involved in bitter infighting in Washington’s pro-Palestinian community, pushing for a more confrontational stance toward Israel….
Salem was at the heart of a dispute last year inside the organization, in which, according to an ally’s account, he pressed for the group to support the Palestinian pursuit of statehood before the United Nations, a move Israel feared and that the United States openly opposed….
Pro-Israel Democrats, however, complained to BuzzFeed Thursday that Romney was paying no political price for associating him with Israel critics at a time when Obama has been pounded constantly on alleged breaches of faith with the Jewish State.
‘I’m not saying all these individuals are anti-Israel, but if this were the other way around, that’s exactly how they’d be portrayed,’ said Democratic strategist Aaron Keyak, a veteran of the partisan Israel wars, of the list. ‘There would be a breaking [Republican Jewish Committee] release and a big bold headline on Drudge, Free Beacon, Weekly Standard, and Fox News: “Obama’s Anti-Israel Kitchen Cabinet.” Instead — silence.’…
‘There’s nothing wrong fundamentally with having an Arab-American group,’ said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council. ‘But I’m sure the Obama folks would be pilloried if they put out any affinity group led by individuals who were deeply opposed in principle to Iran sanctions, for example,’ he said, referring to Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian and ally of Rep. Ron Paul who voted against the sanctions.
‘To say that there’s a double standard here is putting it mildly,’ Harris said.
Other pro-Israel activists were agitated but declined to be quoted criticizing Romney.
‘The fact that the Romney folks have an anti-Israel activist like George Salem and a guy like Grover Norquist, who has been widely criticized, including by Republican members of congress, for long standing ties to terrorists and supporters of terrorists groups, affiliated with their campaign is pretty troubling,’ said one official with a Jewish organization. ‘If this were the Obama campaign, you can only imagine the howls of outrage that we would be hearing from Conservatives — and rightly so.’
Salem’s role produced particular complaints, in part because of his role in connecting President George W. Bush with Arab American leaders who were later pushed well out of the political mainstream. Salem has served as a lawyer for the Holy Land Foundation, a group with ties to Hamas, which President Bush shut down in 2001, and has been the target of at-times intense intra-party criticism since then.
This BuzzFeed report is in addition to the well known relationship between Romney and Israel-challenged former New Hampshire Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu. Sununu — who has a questionable record on Israel — is a top Romney campaign surrogate and was one of the individuals Romney chose to formally nominate him during the Republican National Convention.
JTA’s Ron Kampeas also reported on this story and noted:
Fun related fact: Amash’s opponent, Steve Pestka, is a conservative Jewish Democrat who says he is within striking distance of unseating Amash.