Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Unfit for the White House: Mitt Romney insults the Palestinians, kowtows to Netanyahu, reveals astonishing ignorance of Israel and Palestine, and continues his disastrous foreign tour

What a great photo-op. Too bad all these Jews will miss out on exaltation, though.

Mitt Romney clearly wasn't prepared for his foreign tour, and clearly isn't prepared for the international stage (not to mention for the presidency), and it's been one gaffe

There was everything that happened in the U.K., of course, and then he went to Israel, where it's been mroe of the same, but worse. Let's recap:

1) Yesterday, one of his advisors, Dan Senor, said Romney would support a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran. Until his campaign pulled that back a bit, sort of, saying he prefers "diplomatic and economic measures," which he then followed up on Face the Nation, using his "own words," by saying he hopes the U.S. and Israel "come together in peace that want to see Iran be dissuaded from its nuclear folly." (Later, in a much-ballyhooed speech, he stressed Israel's "right to defend itself," a view shared by all across the political spectrum back home, notably by President Obama. Oh, and on Face the Nation he also said there are "other options, and we don't take those other options off the table," a reference to military action and, again, very much in line with what the president has said repeatedly.

2) In that speech, Romney said that Jerusalem was, in fact, the capital of Israel. He also said it in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, though he seemed to want to have it both ways by refusing to commit to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Consider the cortortions here: "The decision to actually make the move is one, if I were president, I would want to take in consultation with the leadership of the government which exists at that time. So I would follow the same policy we have in the past. Our embassy would be in the capital.  But that said, the timing of that is something I'd want to work out with the government." So typically Romney, a man evidently without principle other than self-aggrandizing plutocracy. Basically, the view that Jerusalem is the unqualified capital of Israel violates decades of U.S. policy, including from Reagan through Obama, the common position being, as White House spokesman Josh Earnest put it, "the capital is something that should be determined in final status negotiations between the parties." If nothing else, Romney's remark was unnecessarily divisive. Sure, he was trying to pander to the right-wing Israeli lobby (and Jewish voters generally) back home, but his remark exposed him as either an ignoramus or an extremist -- or perhaps both.

3) While cozying up to his buddy Netanyahu, Romney was scheduled to have a meeting with Labor Party leader (and former opposition leader) Shelly Yacimovich. (Just as Candidate Obama met with then-opposition leader Netanyahu on his trip to Israel in '08.) Yacimovich's people talked to Romney's people about cancelling the meeting after Shaul Mofaz of Kadima replaced her as opposition leader, but Romney's people objected, saying Mitt would meet with both Yacimovich and Mofaz. But then, suddenly, the meeting with Yacimovich was cancelled. Why? As Haaretz reports, "[Labor Knesset faction head Yitzhak] Herzog and Yacimovich have no doubts: Netanyahu, or his people, didn't approve of the Yacimovich meeting and pressured Romney to cancel it – and succeeded." Which is to say, Romney likely caved in to pressure from the Israeli prime minister, backing out of a meeting with someone of whom he disapproves (and despises). Put another way, Romney allowed Netanyahu to call the shots, proving, it would seem, that he lacks the fortitude, at least when it comes to Israel, to stand up for himself (and his country?).

4) Violating its own rules, the Romney campaign said the press was barred from his fundraiser with bigwigs like former Newt-lover Sheldon Adelson at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Monday, perhaps to keep his self-inflicted embarrassment out of the media, until, under pressure (and getting bad press), it relented, agreeing to allow a single pool reporter into the event.

5) Romney praised Israel's health-care system. Now, in and of itself there's nothing wrong with this, as Israel does indeed have excellent health care. But...

Romney's point about Israel's success in controlling health care costs is spot on: Its health care system has seen health care costs grow much slower than other industrialized nations.

How it has gotten there, however, may not be to the Republican candidate's liking: Israel regulates its health care system aggressively, requiring all residents to carry insurance and capping revenue for various parts of the country's health care system.

Israel created a national health care system in 1995, largely funded through payroll and general tax revenue. The government provides all citizens with health insurance: They get to pick from one of four competing, nonprofit plans. Those insurance plans have to accept all customers -- including people with pre-existing conditions -- and provide residents with a broad set of government-mandated benefits.

And yet he still insists on opposing Obamacare and calling for its repeal, even though it's based largely on what he implemented in Massachusetts and includes an individual mandate akin to what Israel has. Hypocrisy? Opportunism? Shameless pandering? Unprincipled nonsense? You betcha.

6) Finally, as his fundraiser yesterday, he insulted the entire Palestinian people with this remarkably insensitive, and just plain ignorant, statement:

"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the "hand of providence." He said similar disparity exists between neighboring countries, like Mexico and the United States.

At New York, Dan Amira notes that he likely won't take a political hit for insulting the Palestinians, and, again, his goal was to appeal to certain voters back home, not to provide "an accurate and thorough analysis," but his comments were nonetheless revealing. As Saeb Erekat, senior aide to the Palestinian prime minister said, "[i]t seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people." Yes, absolutely. Amira adds: "As for the substance of Romney's remarks, the World Bank, for one, seems to agree with Erekat, at least on the question of Israel's role in depressing the Palestinian economy. In a recent report on the economies of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it concludes that the "major constraints to private sector activity are the tight Israeli restrictions, and growth will not be sustainable until Palestinians have access to resources and are allowed to move freely." And what about this "hand of providence"? How bigoted is that?

And all that's just from a brief trip to Israel. Imagine what serious damage he'd do if he were actually president.

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