Romney Fails the Commander-in-Chief Test. Again.
If there were any lingering doubts about Mitt Romney's unfitness to serve as Commander-in-Chief, his shameful response to the killings of four Americans at a U.S. consulate in Libya should have put them to rest. Romney didn't know the facts. He didn't know the timeline of events. He didn't know who was responsible for the embassy breaches in Cairo and Benghazi. Yet even before Americans had learned of and could mourn their deaths, Governor Romney used their murdered countrymen to slander the President of the United States. When the proverbial 3 A.M. phone call came, Romney let it go to voice mail, where his pre-recorded message called the President "disgraceful" and charged that Obama "sympathize[d] with those who waged the attacks."
Of course, it shouldn't have taken this appalling episode for Mitt Romney to disqualify himself in the eyes of so many. He long ago proved he lacks the judgment, temperament and steadfastness needed to guide the United States during times of crisis.
Consider, in no particular order, the following examples:
Thanks to multiple deferments, Mitt Romney avoided combat duty in the rice fields of Vietnam by instead serving his church in the tony 16th arrondissement of Paris. But while Time reported in 2007 that "he felt guilty about the draft deferment," during his Senate run in 1994 Mitt acknowledged "he did not have any desire to serve in the military during his college and missionary days." (Ironically, the mockery of France would become a centerpiece of Romney's planned campaigns against Hillary Clinton in 2008 and Barack Obama in 2012.) Regardless, four decades after his time in France, he told Iowa voters in 2007 that his own five sons had a higher calling than the U.S. armed forces in Iraq:
"My sons are all adults and they've made decisions about their careers and they've chosen not to serve in the military and active duty and I respect their decision in that regard. One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."
And five years ago, would-be President Romney had a message about a potential nightmare facing the United States. Echoing Glenn Beck, Romney warned that "It's this century's nightmare, jihadism - violent, radical Islamic fundamentalism. Their goal is to unite the world under a single jihadist caliphate." And Romney's "they," it turned out, conflated virtually every Muslim, friend or foe, into one, undifferentiated threat:
"But I don't want to buy into the Democratic pitch, that this is all about one person, Osama bin Laden. Because after we get him, there's going to be another and another. This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate."
And asked about that "one person, Osama Bin Laden," Mitt Romney was of two minds. In late April 2007, he announced, "It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person." But just days later, Romney reversed course and declared of Bin Laden, "He's going to pay, and he will die."
And thanks to President Obama, die he did. But during his first run for the White House, Mitt Romney opposed the very kind of unilateral U.S. strike in Pakistan candidate Barack Obama promised to carry out against Bin Laden and other high value Al Qaeda targets. Of course, after Bin Laden was killed, Romney repeatedly insisted "I think other presidents and other candidates, like myself, would do exactly the same thing." Put another way, if Mitt Romney gets that phone call at 3 A.M., he'd give you a different answer at 3:15.
That was hardly Romney's first foreign policy turnabout. Four years ago Mitt Romney felt pretty good about killing Saddam Hussein, too. As Byron York noted, during a January 2008 GOP debate, Romney was asked, "Was the war in Iraq a good idea worth the cost in blood and treasure we have spent?" Mitt's response?
"It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at the time; I support it now."
But despite no new evidence in the intervening three years, by 2011 Multiple Choice Mitt was not so sure:
"Well, if we knew at the time of our entry into Iraq that there were no weapons of mass destruction -- if somehow we had been given that information, why, obviously we would not have gone in."
Amazingly, Al Qaeda never topped Mitt Romney's list of national security threats to the United States. In March 2012, Romney surprised both parties by declaring, "Russia is without question our number one geopolitical foe." (In 2010, a shocked Fred Kaplan skewered Romney's grandstanding, declaring, "In 35 years of following debates over nuclear arms control, I have never seen anything quite as shabby, misleading and -- let's not mince words -- thoroughly ignorant as Mitt Romney's attack on the New START treaty.") But just the month before, Romney wrote an op-ed titled, "How I'll Respond to China's Rising Power." The previous October, he told a GOP debate audience, "If you are not willing to stand up to China, you are going to get run over by China." Yet in October 2009, the Republican nominee in waiting penned another screed exclaiming:
"Iran: Biggest Threat Since Soviets"
And for years, Mitt Romney's line towards Iran has pretty much been whatever his friend and former Boston Consulting Group colleague Benjamin Netanyahu said it should be. But while Romney has crowed "we can almost speak in shorthand," those messages haven't worked out so well with the American public.
After all, in 2007, Romney took up Bibi's campaign for U.S. pension funds to disinvest from companies doing business with Iran. Mitt's failed effort lasted exactly 24 hours, or about as long as it took the AP to document that his former employer, Bain & Company, was profiting from deals with the mullahs in Tehran. Romney's response?
"This is something for now-forward. I wouldn't begin to say that people who, in the past, have been doing business with Iran, are subject to the same scrutiny as that which is going on from a prospective basis."
(In 2012, Americans similarly learned that Bain Capital, from whom Mitt Romney still earns millions annually, bought the video surveillance division of Chinese company that is a major supplier to the government in Beijing.)
Governor Romney's on-going crusade demanding the United Nations indict Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on war crimes charges hasn't gone much better. As Mother Jones detailed last year, there are a host of legal barriers to Romney's gambit. For starters, "U.S. policy has been to not honor the International Criminal Court; we are not a signatory to the Rome Treaty." And as MoJo reported:
It's widely interpreted that a statement supposedly egging on genocide is not legally considered a tool of genocide, unless it can be taken into evidence as proving direct intent and premeditation. Furthermore, it would be unprecedented to indict a foreign leader for a genocide that hasn't even taken place yet.
Regardless, Mitt Romney has insisted that "we must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon." And, he has said repeatedly, "If I'm president that will not happen. If we reelect Barack Obama it will happen." Apparently, that development would not only be more dire than the Soviet nuclear threat ever was, but one he said in June President Romney could militarily pre-empt without the authorization of Congress:
"I can assure you if I'm president, the Iranians will have no question but that I will be willing to take military action if necessary to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I don't believe at this stage, therefore, if I'm president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now. I understand that some in the Senate for instance have written letters to the president indicating you should know that a containment strategy is unacceptable. We cannot survive a course of action which would include a nuclear Iran we must be willing to take any and all actions."
That may seem like an odd position for Romney to be taking. After all, just three weeks ago one of top national security advisers Elliott Abrams called for Congress to authorize the use of force against Iran. And back in 2007, Romney gave MSNBC's Chris Matthews and his GOP debate audience a much different answer. Asked "if you were president of the United States, would you need to go to Congress to get authorization to take military action against Iran's nuclear facilities," Mitt answered:
"You sit down with your attorneys."
Five years later, Mitt Romney has instead promised, "I'd get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say, 'Would it help if I said this? What would you like me to do?'" And when he traveled to Jerusalem in June, Romney delivered on his pledge that "we will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally Israel." With Bibi by his side, Mitt ignored U.S. policy about preventing Iran from actually building a nuclear weapon and instead endorsed Netanyahu's murkier red line "to prevent the ayatollahs from possessing the capability" to develop one.
(That wasn't the first time this year that Mitt Romney flouted the long-standing convention that "politics stops at the water's edge." In June, Romney economic adviser Glenn Hubbard published an op-ed in Germany criticizing the Obama administration's position on austerity policies in Europe.)
Of course, Mitt Romney would do better to formulate a position of his own on Afghanistan, a war about which he expressed only silence during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. (His stunning June 2011 statement that "I also think we've learned that our troops shouldn't go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation" left Democrats and Republicans alike confused.) Looking at the upheaval in the Middle East, Romney bizarrely suggested in July that the Arab Spring might never have happened had George W. Bush's "freedom agenda" not been prematurely halted by President Barack Obama. As for his continuing evolution on Libya, ABC News documented five different positions Romney has held.
All of which is why, especially after his disgusting performance over the past 24 hours, Mitt Romney never the hold of the position of Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America.
(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)