If Teddy Roosevelt were alive today he’d be drummed out of the Republican Party
– and not just because his views on protecting the environment, busting trusts,
increasing government regulation of businesses, regulating meat inspection and
food and drug safety are totally out of step with today’s GOP.
whose motto was “speak softly and carry a big stick” would be outraged by the
jingoism of his party in the 21st Century. The first American Nobel Prize winner
was recognized for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese war.
would-be White House successors sound like they want to start at least one and
possibly two more wars.
Three leading candidates for the Republican
nomination – Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – are trying to beat
the war drums louder than each other.
The 2008 GOP nominee, Sen. John
McCain, a former fighter-bomber pilot, has just called for the United States to
begin bombing Syria.
Santorum said he “would consider” that; so far his
rivals are only willing to arm the rebels.
They leave no doubt, however,
when it comes to Iran. And they like talking about it. Loudly.
Barack Obama said there’s “too much loose talk of war” and quoted Teddy
Roosevelt’s famous line, Republicans turned all their verbal artillery on him.
How could he say such a thing? The Iranians might mistake it for
Obama said he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “prefer to
resolve [the Iranian nuclear issue] diplomatically.”
leave that impression in his AIPAC speech the next evening.
sanctions a chance, the president told delegates to the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee policy conference; the economic noose is tightening, causing
Iran’s leaders great pain.
Not enough pain, said AIPAC’s executive
director Howard Kohr. “(M)ore needs to be done” to force Iran to give up its
“We believe there is still time for these things to
work. We believe there is still time to ratchet up the pressure, to create a
different dynamic inside Iran and their decision-making.
And we think that
is going to be one of the central challenges at the moment,” Kohr
Mitt Romney, the putative GOP frontrunner, keeps saying that if
Obama is reelected Iran will surely get the bomb and only he can stop it. Of
course, if Obama began bombing Iran today you can bet Romney would be among the
first to attack him for rushing into war and creating a spike in gasoline prices
and an international economic crisis.
Romney has one advantage over
Obama. Anything he or any other challenger says is mere non-binding campaign
rhetoric and subject to change at any moment, while pronouncements by a
president are national policy, with real consequences.
Obama also doesn’t
want to repeat the intelligence mistakes that the Bush administration made in
its haste to go to war with Iraq.
If Romney, Santorum and Gingrich
believe their tough rhetoric will frighten the Iranians, they should think back
to their demigod Ronald Reagan.
In the 1980 campaign a favorite
Republican line was, “What is brown and glows at night?” Answer: “Iran after
Reagan is elected.” It was a reference to the hostage crisis.
Iranians refused to deal with Jimmy Carter and held back the release of the
American diplomats until he was out of office on January 20, 1981.One might
argue that the Iranians freed them out of fear of what Reagan might do, but the
fact that Iran not only paid no price but got back a lot of its frozen assets
suggests just the opposite.
Reagan, in Iranian eyes, turned out to be a
paper tiger, which no doubt encouraged Tehran’s adventurousness and efforts to
extend the Islamic revolution. They paid no price for their role in the 444-day
hostage crisis, the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut and other
acts of anti- American terrorism.
Would a President
Romney/Santorum/Gingrich be as anxious to bomb Iran as Candidate
Romney/Santorum/ Gingrich? Remember Candidate George W. Bush’s promise to move
the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? Did you notice how these guys are making
the same promise? On the campaign trail, the Republican war lovers are ready, in
the words of McCain in the 2008 election, to “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” Romney on
the stump: It’s not enough for Obama to say the military option is “on the
table,” the Iranians need to see visible preparations for war.
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell went one step farther, telling AIPAC the
administration should announce that if Iran enriches uranium to weapons grade
“we will respond with overwhelming military force.”
Santorum: “I would be
saying to the Iranians, you either open up those facilities, you begin to
dismantle them and make them available to inspectors or we will degrade those
facilities through air strikes and make it very public that we are doing
Gingrich advised Netanyahu not to give the Obama administration
advance notice if he decides to attack Iran because it can’t be trusted not to
leak the information.
So far, it’s just campaign talk – but, as we’ve
seen too often in the past, careless election-year rhetoric can lead to armed