The hyper-conservative World Net Daily has caused a bit of a stir on the right today with this report.
Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney has cited the social welfare network of the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group as a role model the U.S. should copy to help promote “goodness” and “freedom” around the world.
This isn’t going over well among some conservatives. National Review’s Lisa Schiffren said it is “really horrifying to think that a man of Mr. Romney’s intelligence would make the a [sic] serious diplomatic mistake of citing a radical terrorist group as a model for U.S. policy. This is where being a techno-guy, without any real foreign policy experience, (or ear) begins to matter.”
There’s two parts to this. One, did Romney say what WND reported? And two, is Romney right? The answer is yes, to both.
WND didn’t misquote Romney. Check the entire clip.
It was, oddly enough, a pretty good answer. Hezbollah curried favor in Lebanon by offering key services. Lo and behold, it worked. Romney’s point was that the U.S. could help win “hearts and minds” through supporting services like this in the region.
Now, if a Democrat had said this, it wouldn’t have gone unnoticed for a whole week. The headlines would be everywhere: “Dem calls on U.S. to follow Hezbollah’s example.” It’d be a political nightmare, substance be damned. But Romney said it, and it’s just now becoming an issue.
It’s tempting to go for the cheap shot here, and do to Romney what conservatives have done to Obama this week, but the truth is Romney’s answer was entirely sensible. As Yglesias explained:
Obviously, the United States government shouldn’t become “like Hezbollah” but it’s obvious that one way Hezbollah and Hamas have gained a lot of support is by providing helpful services to people in need. If the U.S. wants to do effective political outreach — or wants to help democratic forces strengthen their own positions in Muslim-majority countries — that’s going to require people to roll up their sleeves and do some of that kind of work themselves.
WND and National Review obviously don’t see it this way. Given the right’s general approach to these issues, I suspect we’ll see plenty of “Romney (Hearts) Hezbollah” pieces popping up in 3... 2... 1....