Mitt Romney steps off his campaign plane 370 (R).
(photo credit: Brian Snyder / Reuters)
WASHINGTON – A generation ago, it was the three I’s. A presidential challenger’s
obligatory foreign trip meant Ireland, Italy and Israel. Mitt Romney’s itinerary
is slightly different: Britain, Poland and Israel.
Not quite the naked
ethnic appeal of yore. Each destination suggests a somewhat more subtle
affinity: Britain, playing to our cultural connectedness with the Downton Abbey
folks who’ve been at our side in practically every fight for the past hundred
years; Poland, representing the “new Europe,” the Central Europeans so
unashamedly pro-American; Israel, appealing to most American Jews but also to an
infinitely greater number of passionately sympathetic Evangelical
Unlike Barack Obama, Romney abroad will not be admonishing
his country, criticizing his president or declaring himself a citizen of the
world. Indeed, Romney should say nothing of substance, just offer effusive
expressions of affection for his hosts – and avoid needless contretemps, like
his inexplicably dumb and gratuitous critique of Britain’s handling of the
The whole point is to show appreciation for close allies,
something the current president has conspicuously failed to do.
contrary. Obama started his presidency by returning to the British Embassy the
bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office. Then came the State
Department official who denied the very existence of a US-British special
relationship, saying: “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the
same as the other 190 countries in the world.”
To be topped off by the
slap they received over the Falkland Islands, an issue the Brits had considered
closed since they repelled the Argentine invasion there 30 years
They were not amused by the Obama administration’s studied
neutrality between Britain and Argentina, with both a State Department spokesman
and the president ostentatiously employing “Malvinas,” the politically charged
Argentine name, interchangeably with “Falklands.” (Although the president
flubbed it, calling them the “Maldives,” an Indian Ocean island chain 8,000
miles away.) As for Poland, it was stunned by Obama’s unilateral cancellation of
a missile defense agreement signed with the Bush 43
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Having defied vociferous Russian threats, the Poles
expected better treatment than to wake up one morning – the 70th anniversary of
the Soviet invasion of Poland, no less – to find themselves the victim of
Obama’s “reset” policy of accommodation with Russia. So much for protection from
Russian bullying, something they thought they had finally gained with the end of
the Cold War.
And then there is Israel, the most egregious example of
Obama’s disregard for traditional allies. Obama came into office explicitly
intent on creating “daylight” between himself and Israel, believing that by
tilting toward the Arabs, they would be more accommodating.
happened. (Surprise!) When Obama insisted on a building freeze in Jerusalem that
no US government had ever demanded and no Israeli government would ever accept,
the Palestinian Authority saw clear to become utterly
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas openly told
The Washington Post that he would just sit on his hands and wait for America to
Result? Abbas refused to negotiate. Worse, he tried to
undermine the fundamental principle of US Middle East diplomacy – a negotiated
two-state solution – by seeking unilateral UN recognition of Palestinian
statehood, without talks or bilateral agreements.
In Israel, Romney will
undoubtedly say nothing new. He’ll just reiterate his tough talk on Iran’s
nuclear program. But I suspect he’ll let the Israelis know privately that
contrary to the conventional wisdom that his hawkishness signals his readiness
to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, his real intent is to signal that, unlike
Obama, he is truly committed to permitting Israel to do what it needs to defend
itself. This will be welcome news to a nation that has never asked anyone to
fight on its behalf, just a green light to defend itself without impediments or
veiled threats from its friends.
Most important, however, is to just show
up. That’s 80 percent of life, Woody Allen once noted. No need to say much.
Romney’s very presence will make the statement.
To the Israelis: “We
understand your unique plight. If and when you do as you must, we will stand by
you.” To the Poles: “You can count on the American umbrella.
I will never
leave you out in the cold.” And to the British: “We are grateful for your
steadfast solidarity in awful places like Iraq and Afghanistan. The relationship
truly is special.”
“And one more thing. Still have that bust of
Churchill?” Righting his ship late Thursday in London, Romney did say he wants
Winnie back in the Oval Office.Charles Krauthammer’s email address is
letters@ charleskrauthammer.com. (c) 2012,
The Washington Post Writers Group.
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