The dig on Mitt Romney has been he’s too calculating and lacks core values. We’ve seen quite a different picture over the last week or so.
Romney was, unless he possesses much better acting skills than we’ve seen from him during the last five years on the political stage, genuinely outraged at the president’s statement of collectivist dogma (What’s yours is ours. Don’t think you’re so smart or work so hard.) He spoke in clear, declarative sentences, “If you attack success, you’ll get less of it.” Well, yeah.
Then he went overseas. Asked about the well-publicized (especially in British papers!) security snafus at the Olympics, he expressed concern. He forgot to pull his punch. (As Dorothy Rabinowitz put it, “ It didn’t occur to him to blither on smoothly, with assurances that all would be well. He did what a man who prizes his authority on a subject does — he answered. He reflected on possibilities. It was a serious subject — his subject. He neglected to think about politics and diplomacy.”)
Then we went to Jerusalem and won the gold medal in the obvious: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Every prominent Jewish organization agrees with Romney on this. So did Bill Clinton, who said it in 1992. So did Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign (until he backtracked the day after his speech to AIPAC). Dennis Ross, who was then pitching Obama as a pro-Israel presidential candidate in 2008, famously told the Jerusalem Post: “The fact of the matter is, Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. That’s a fact. It’s also a fact that the city should not be divided again.” (Ross added that the position since Camp David of the U.S. government had been that the final status be negotiated.)
Romney, it is noteworthy, did not even say Jerusalem must remain undivided, nor did he exclude any future arrangement. He simply acknowledged reality. Obama now finds that impossible. And Dennis Ross is sitting the election out.
The Obama administration insists we all deny that factual statement for fear of giving offense to the Palestinian Authority, the folks who went to the United Nations to get unilateral recognition of statehood and formed a unity government with Hamas.
Next, Romney told another truism, this time to a group of donors: “[Y]ou come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about 21,000 dollars and you compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like 10,000 dollars per capita, you notice a dramatic, stark difference in economic vitality. And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States. I noted that part of my interest when I used to be in the world of business is I would travel to different countries was to understand why there were such enormous disparities in the economic success of various countries.” He cited one author on the topic (although an equally important book on the topic was recently reviewed in the Wall Street Journal).
He then explained: “Culture makes all the difference.” He never said or implied “Jewish culture” was superior to any other; he was talking, again, about the culture of capitalism. After plugging adviser Dan Senor’s book on how Israel shed its socialist culture and moved to a more entrepreneurial economy, he told the audience that the book “described why it is Israel is the leading nation for start-ups in the world. And why businesses one after the other tend to start up in this place. And he goes through some of the cultural elements that have led Israel to become a nation that has begun so many businesses and so many enterprises and that is becomes so successful.”
This was not only entirely accurate but has been the premise of the so-called Fayyed plan, named after the now-ostracized reformist prime minister of the PA, which seeks to build civil institutions, promote the rule of law, limit corruption and thereby create a more prosperous and stable society.
Once again, Romney was being both blunt and thoughtful. His view is the farthest ideology imaginable from “racism,” for Romney’s beliefs stem from the conviction that with solid institutions and instilled values of work, thrift, risk-taking and the like that any people can succeed.
So accustomed have they become to a president not giving offense to those who’d benefit from hard truths that liberal elites think an effective foreign policy depends on serial lying and moral equivalence. They have inadvertently demonstrated the gulf between the candidates. Romney won’t perpetrate massive lies (Palestinian woes are due to Israel, Jerusalem isn’t the capital of Israel, settlements are the problem, etc.). Obama tells the Palestinians they are akin to enslaved African Americans; Romney tells them to get their act together. The press fainted over Ronald Reagan’s designation of “Evil Empire” to describe an empire that was evil. Now they stroke out on the suggestion Israel should be an example to its neighbors. Count me impressed. What the paper that once denied the existence of Stalin’s gulag calls a “gaffe,” freedom- loving people call “hope and change.”
If this is the Romney we’re going to see during the balance of the campaign Obama is in deep trouble. This Romney is unapologetic. This Romney has sincere faith in free markets and free peoples. And this Romney is not going to be a prisoner of diplomatic doublespeak to avoid faux-offense-taking by international players. Let Obama be the one to run down entrepreneurialism. Let him talk in circles about Jerusalem. Maybe American and European elites will swoon, but Americans? Not so much, I think.