"Politics," Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg declared during Harry Truman's presidency decades ago, "stops at the water's edge." Not, it turns out, for Mitt Romney. Three years ago, Romney blasted Obama's "apology tour" even as the President was visiting Cairo, Ankara and other capitals. (For that slander, the Washington Post fact-checker gave Romney a "Four Pinocchio" rating.) Now, the Republican nominee has dispatched his chief economic adviser, Glenn Hubbard, to pen an op-ed in a German paper to undermine the Obama administration's position on the economic crisis in Europe.
For months, the White House has been pressuring Euro zone leaders and German chancellor Angela Merkel to take action to stabilize Spain and Greece while backing away from the draconian austerity programs that are dragging down European economies and threatening the U.S. recovery. Even as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner pushed for the rescue of Spanish banks, President Obama used his press conference Friday to issue a warning:
Over the longer term, even as European countries with large debt burdens carry out necessary fiscal reforms, they've also got to promote economic growth and job creation. As some countries have discovered, it's a lot harder to rein in deficits and debt if your economy isn't growing. So it's a positive thing that the conversation has moved in that direction, and leaders like Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are working to put in place a growth agenda alongside responsible fiscal plans.
But even as the Obama administration was sending Merkel one message, former Mitt Romney's chief economic adviser, Glenn Hubbard, was taking to the pages of the business journal Handelsblatt to argue the reverse in his screed, "Don't Learn from America." As The New York Times reported:
"Unfortunately, the advice of the U.S. government regarding solutions to the crisis is misleading. For Europe and especially for Germany," Mr. Hubbard wrote, according to a translation of his article from the Handelsblatt Web site.
He opposed what he described as the Obama administration's efforts "to persuade Germany to stand up financially weak governments and banks in the euro zone so that the Greek crisis would not spread to other states."
"These recommendations are not only unwise," he added, "they also reveal ignorance of the causes of the crisis and of a growth trend in the future."
Mr. Hubbard proposed a classic conservative pro-austerity, anti-Keynesian approach, arguing that cutting government spending will restore public confidence, encourage growth and avert future tax increases.
"Long-term confidence in solid government financing shores up growth and enables the same scope for short-term transitional assistance," he said. "Mitt Romney, Obama's Republican opponent, understands this very well and advises a gradual fiscal consolidation for the U.S.: structural reform to stimulate growth."