Two contrasting quotes from yesterday’s news cycle, then three observations:
“… overall my sense is that what (Hugo) Chavez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us. We have to be vigilant. My main concern when it comes to Venezuela is having the Venezuelan people have a voice in their affairs, and that you end up ultimately having fair and free elections, which we don’t always see.”
– President Obama
“This is a stunning and shocking comment by the president. It is disturbing to see him downplaying the threat posed to U.S. interests by a regime that openly wishes us ill. Hugo Chavez has provided safe haven to drug kingpins, encouraged regional terrorist organizations that threaten our allies like Colombia, has strengthened military ties with Iran and helped it evade sanctions, and has allowed a Hezbollah presence within his country’s borders.”
– Mitt Romney
1.) It takes disturbingly little to “shock and stun” Mitt Romney. What would he do if something truly serious happened? Keel over in a faint?
2.) We are the United States, with the world’s largest economy — by a lot — and the world’s largest military — by a lot, lot more. Chavez is a cancer-ridden tinpot dictator of a country with an economy the size of Maryland’s and a defense budget that’s 0.45 percent of the Pentagon budget. His entire schtick is to puff himself up by pretending that he poses some threat to the mighty United States, and Romney has given him exactly what he wants.
3.) According to Romney, Russia “is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe,” while “the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran.” He says that “unless China changes its ways, on Day One of my presidency I will designate it a currency manipulator and take appropriate counteraction” and he now wants to treat little Venezuela as a serious threat to our national security. He also promises that as president, he “will commit to eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons and its nuclear-weapons infrastructure.”
We have serious differences with each of those countries, which pose challenges of varying sorts to American interests. Romney seems intent on handling all of them with the same overwrought approach. In addition, the foreign policy team that he has selected is dominated by those who advised President George W. Bush in his first term, more specifically by members of the Cheney faction that Bush gradually moved aside, if a little too late.
Foreign policy isn’t going to get a lot of attention in this race, but as we’ve learned the hard way, a single unexpected event can suddenly make it the most important item on the national agenda. To my mind, Obama has provided a calm, steady hand in foreign affairs; there is every sign that Romney would provide leadership of a different sort.
– Jay Bookman