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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPT. 14, 2012
MITT AND BIBI’S COSTLY CHEAP SHOTS
BY BOB FRANKEN
Forget Paul Ryan. Mitt Romney’s real running mate is Benjamin Netanyahu. True, he’s prime minister of Israel, but he obviously decided to add a spot on the Romney ticket to his portfolio.
That is the only possible explanation for his blatant meddling in the U.S. (a separate country, remember?) presidential campaign. In his temper tantrum, he used incendiary language, insisting this administration had forfeited the “moral right” to influence Israeli decisions on attacking Iran.
Netanyahu’s outburst followed comments by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the United States (a separate country, remember?) is “not setting deadlines” for Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program. “Those in the international community,” he argued, “who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”
Let’s talk about “red lines.” There should be one between a foreign leader, an ally, interfering with an American election. It is unacceptable bullying. And to complain afterward that the president, the one Netanyahu clearly is trying to depose, had decided not to meet with him later this month added to the impression it was nothing more than a heavy-handed attempt to coerce the Obama administration to submit.
And still on the subject of “red lines”: There should a bright one between a dangerous international situation and a candidate so desperate to score points against his incumbent opponent that he blurts comments with no regard to how he may sabotage his country.
Romney is getting creamed big-time for his seeming recklessness after racing to condemn the Obama administration before he even knew that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans had been killed during separate attacks by extremists in Benghazi, Libya. Romney is accused of spouting off without getting his facts straight. He’s getting it from all sides for thoughtlessly stumbling through a dangerous minefield.
America’s enemies are now exploiting the release of that new, crudely put-together film produced by some shadowy operators, which is clearly designed to demean Islam. It was certain to get the violent reaction it did in the Arab world. It ridicules the Prophet Muhammad in the basest way and predictably has become an excuse for Muslim extremists to stir up a frenzy. Its supporters are Christian extremists bent on displays of bigoted sacrilege.
So the Cairo embassy, before the deaths in Libya, criticized the “continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” It was a boilerplate response -- one that was unauthorized by Washington and quickly taken down. But Romney had already fired away: “I think it’s a terrible course to -- for America to stand in apology for our values ...”
“Our values”? Is religious hatred one of our values? It’s not supposed to be. As someone whose own Mormon faith has suffered that same kind of prejudice, surely Mitt Romney should understand that. But he was consumed by his recklessness and his advisers’ fecklessness.
Bedsides, his inanities didn’t reflect the administration’s response to the tragedy. President Barack Obama, ignoring the Mitt scattershots, was exacting a promise from Libyan leader Mohamed Magarief to bring the killers to justice. In a “60 Minutes” interview afterward, he ridiculed his opponent for “a tendency to shoot first and aim later.”
It’s not the first time Romney has tripped over his tongue. Remember how he managed to offend the Brits right before the Olympics? That was just one of his more harmless goof-ups.
Apparently, irresponsible rhetoric and actions are a part of his game when it comes to world affairs. Never mind that enemies are fanning the flames of crises that could intensified by careless language.
As for Netanyahu’s electioneering, Romney seems to need the help. When it comes to delicate, nuanced foreign policy, he’s showing himself to be out of his league.
© 2012 Bob Franken