By Michael J.W. Stickings
Here we go. Another day, another example of Romney trying to score political points, an increasingly desperate effort at this point, by taking something President Obama said out of context and distorting its meaning.
Here’s Obama on 60 Minutes, in response to a question about whether he feels any pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to change American policy towards Iran:
When it comes to our national security decisions any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people, and I am going to block out any noise that’s out there.
The Romney campaign pounced, perhaps hoping to scare up some votes in Florida, issuing the following statement:
Tonight on 60 Minutes, President Obama called Israel’s legitimate concern about the impact of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons “noise” and referred to Israel as merely “one of our closest allies in the region.”
The statement continued:
This is just the latest evidence of his chronic disregard for the security of our closest ally in the Middle East. Governor Romney’s views stand in sharp contrast to the President’s. Governor Romney strongly believes that Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East and that support for Israel is essential to extending freedom, peace and democracy throughout the region. As president, Governor Romney will restore and protect the close alliance between our nation and the state of Israel.
But did Obama actually disrespect Israel? Hardly. Here’s what he said:
Now I feel an obligation — not pressure but obligation — to make sure that we’re in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues because it affects them deeply. They’re one of our closest allies in the region and we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence.
So it all hinges on the “one of our closest allies in the region” line. The Romney campaign is riffing off that to suggest that Obama disrespects Israel and disregards its concerns. Which is ridiculous.
There are certainly other U.S. allies in the region, like Jordan and Turkey, and the president was right to say what he said.
But of course it is de rigueur throughout American politics, but particularly among conservatives, not just to express one’s support for Israel but essentially to acquiesce to its demands, to kowtow before it, to shape U.S. policy according to Israeli policy (at least if Israeli policy is Likudnik).
Obama is nothing if not pro-Israel, but of course he’s not pro-Israel enough for the hardliners on the right, including in Romney’s campaign, including Romney himself.
Romney wants to try to twist Obama’s words around for his own benefit, but let’s look at it another way:
Where the president wants to make decisions that are in America’s best interests, free from outside influence or pressure, Romney wants to sell out American policy to a foreign country — and if that means going to war with Iran because that country wants it, so be it.
Which is to say, President Obama understands that Israel is a close ally that needs U.S. support but that the U.S. must come first. Romney, meanwhile, seems to think that what matters is what Israel, and specifically the right-wing Israeli government, wants, and that the U.S. must not come before it.
And this was hardly the first time. Last October, for example, he said he would let Israel dictate U.S. policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
Why does Mitt Romney continue to insist on making America a pitiful sidekick on the world stage?
Why does he not believe in America, and in American leadership?