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Posted at 09:21 AM ET, 07/30/2012

The Morning Plum: A window into Mitt Romney’s foreign policy instincts

On some level, Mitt Romney’s Olympics gaffe last week was relatively harmless. Screwing up a visit to the United Kingdom, the underhand toss of foreign policy pitches, did in some ways suggest that Romney lacks the finesse to handle the nuances of international diplomacy, but the Olympics was hardly the most dangerous topic to shoot off one’s mouth about. Romney’s visit to Israel, however, is cementing the impression that on foreign policy, he is a disaster waiting to happen.

First, in a break with decades of U.S. policy, Romney referred to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Right wingers and neoconservatives may love to hear that, but there’s a reason no president has ever recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel: Such a step would throw a big wrench in any American push for a future Palestine-Israel negotiations. Second, senior foreign policy adviser Dan Senor told reporters that “if Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing the capability, the governor would respect that decision.” Romney declined to back up Senor’s tacit approval of an Israeli strike, but the comment was a revealing window into the advice Romney is hearing from his foreign policy advisers, many of whom are from the Bush White House. Worst of all, though, was this:

Mitt Romney told Jewish donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the nearby Palestinians, outraging Palestinian leaders who called his comments racist and out of touch.
“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors...
“And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things,” Romney said.”

Throughout the campaign, Romney has shown little-to-no firsthand knowledge of foreign policy. Of course, many presidents have lacked foreign policy experience before entering office. But this overseas trip has made clear that not only does Romney surround himself with advisers who want to push the Bush-era foreign policy even further, he also has terrible foreign policy instincts.

* A “go-for-broke” election: E.J. Dionne nails why Republicans refuse to move to the center as November approaches:

For conservatives, this is a go-for-broke election. They and a Republican Party now under their control hope to eke out a narrow victory in November on the basis of a quite radical program that includes more tax cuts for the rich, deep reductions in domestic spending, big increases in military spending and a sharp rollback in government regulation. In the process, the right hopes to redefine middle-of-the-road policies as “left wing,” thereby altering the balance in the American political debate.

Furthermore, given the basic nature of the business cycle, whoever is president come 2013 will more likely than not preside over an economic recovery of some sort. Whichever party wins in November, then, will be in a particularly good position four years later to argue that their policies were responsible for the recovery.

* More “out of context” adventures from the Romney camp: Glenn Kessler gives four Pinnochios to the Romney campaign’s latest ad, which blatantly misrepresents Obama’s “We tried our plan — and it worked” as relating to the economy, not to Clinton-era tax policy. Not that facts will stop the out-of-context trend.

* How low did Romney’s tax rate go? Mitt himself doesn’t know: According to ABC News, “Mitt Romney could not say today whether he had ever paid a tax rate lower than 13.9 percent. He said:

“I haven’t calculated that. I’m happy to go back and look, but my view is I’ve paid all the taxes required by law.”

* More on Romney’s low tax rate: In this interview Romney is framing the choice as one between having paid this rate and broken the law, but tax experts think one reason he doesn’t want to release the returns is that there are plenty of legal ways he could have kept his tax rate significantly lower. This offer on Romney’s part will prompt another round of pressure from Dems to release them already; after all, if he tells us he hasn’t paid a lower rate, are people supposed to just trust him? — gs

* Fundraising shenanigans: Roll Call details the “unique tactic” Republicans are using to “to direct more money to [Romney’s] presidential effort than federal limits would suggest possible.”

* Scalia: Guns may be regulated: At least one branch of the government is talking about gun control. On Fox News Sunday, Antonin Scalia admitted that — shockingly — guns can be regulated without violating the Second Amendment. “[The Founders] had some limitations on the nature of arms that could be borne,” he told Chris Wallace. Now if only the President and Congress would listen.

* Disenfranchised voters: While attention has been rightly focused the Republicans’ nationwide drive to restrict voting rights, the Post has a good editorial noting that laws already on the books disenfranchising felons deserve scrutiny:

According to a study released this month by the Sentencing Project, about 7.7 percent of the African American voting-age population is disenfranchised, compared with 1.8 percent of the non-African American population. In Virginia, Kentucky and Florida, felon disenfranchisement affects a staggering one in five African Americans. There’s no excuse for that.

* And Dems keep up offensive on taxes: The DCCC is releasing online ads hitting some two dozen vulnerable Republican incumbents over this week’s expected House vote against the Dem plan to extend the Bush tax cuts on income under $250,000. The version targeting Illinois Congressman Bobby Shilling is here.

It’s the latest sign Dems are proceeding from the assumption that this is an issue that they can win on; the question is whether targeting individual Republican votes can break through in an environment dominated by the economy. — gs

What else?

By  |  09:21 AM ET, 07/30/2012

 
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