Israel Trip Showed Romney’s Not Ready

— by David A. Harris

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s trip overseas was designed to show that he is ready to be our nation’s commander in chief. It was supposed to show that he has the capability to steward key alliances and honorably represent our citizens.

By those measures, it was a complete failure.

More after the jump.
In addition to Romney insulting one of our closest allies by questioning British preparedness for the London Olympics, he boasted of the meeting he held with Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, even though one is not supposed to speak publicly of such meetings. Shouldn’t someone aspiring to be the Commander in Chief know when to keep his lips sealed – regardless of whether it involves intelligence or just being a gracious visitor?

But what was most extraordinary about Romney’s international visit was how irresponsible and reckless he was while discussing one of the most sensitive diplomatic issues of our time: the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

At first, Romney’s Israel excursion seemed harmless enough, mostly scheduled with photo-ops and events with high-dollar donors. In fact, Romney was almost never available to the travelling press and gave few public remarks. But what is truly remarkable though is just how damaging those few remarks were.

Romney displayed how woefully unequipped he is to be our Commander in Chief and seemed to not understand the diplomatic sensitivities and the potential costs to our national interests as he casually took a stance that was contrary to decades of U.S. Middle East policy, including under Democratic and Republican administrations.

By declaring that a Romney administration would ignore a precedent set by Republican leaders such as President George W. Bush and President Ronald Reagan, he introduced uncertainty into an already volatile region and may have pushed back the peace process before he had a chance to set foot in the Oval Office. And this is above and beyond the fact that he broke his promise which he made before he embarked on his international tour to not criticize President Obama on foreign soil.

And Romney did not stop there; he insulted Israelis and Palestinians alike, by saying that when it comes to the economic success – or failures – of those two peoples, “culture makes all the difference.” Not the free market, not international trade relationships, not education levels, not government investment, not geopolitical realities, and not ingenuity – economic wellbeing is a result of “culture.” These remarks were harshly condemned by Palestinians leadership and one Tel Aviv professor even said, “You can say it’s anti-Semitic. ‘Jews and money.'”

What’s most notable about Romney’s trip is that regardless of what happened abroad, he had already caused harm before leaving theUnited States. His reckless rhetoric about Russia, his bluster without details regarding Iran, and his pledge to “do the opposite” of one of the most pro-Israel presidents in history have all raised serious concerns among many in the Jewish community.

During the campaign season these missteps may be labeled as gaffes, but such leeway won’t be available to the President of the United States. The occupant of the most powerful seat in the world must pay attention to every word and action that he or she takes. A seemingly small misstep or cultural faux pas could damage key strategic alliances, seriously undermining America’s ability to pursue its national interest.

By showing that he was unable to visit three allies without serious diplomatic mistakes, Romney not only revealed how unsuited he is to be Commander in Chief, but his overseas performance would have disqualified him from being a first-year diplomat. And that is to say nothing of the many Republicans cringing over his foreign policy weaknesses.

President Obama has a proven record of strengthening America abroad and has not hesitated to use swift and powerful force when necessary. Our President has demonstrated that he understands when to be the ultimate diplomat and when to act unilaterally to protect our national interests throughout the world.

Romney’s international misadventures clarified in the minds of many Americans and American Jews who in this race is qualified to be Commander in Chief – and unfortunately for Romney, he displayed that it’s not him.

Originally published in The Times of Israel.


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