Romney may be master of friendly fire

Al Kamen
Columnist October 8, 2012

Mitt Romney spent Monday talking tough on foreign policy. “We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds,” he declared.

Speaking of friends, however, President Obama’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki had this to say about the Republican presidential candidate’s tendency to tick off U.S. allies and others: “The only person who has offended Europe more is probably Chevy Chase.”

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

We assume she was referring to the comedian’s 1985 slapstick movie “National Lampoon’s European Vacation,” in which Chase (whose birthday was Monday, coincidentally) plays a hapless American tourist who bungles a tour of the continent.

And while Romney, unlike Chase’s obliviously goofy character, Clark Griswold, hasn’t toppled Stonehenge with a Citroen or prompted a dog to jump off the Eiffel Tower, he does have a record of poking friendly nations.

During last week’s campaign debate, he took an unprovoked swipe at, of all places, the land of Gaudi. “I don’t want to go down the path of Spain,” he said when asked about government spending. Spaniards were outraged at being pointed to as a cautionary tale.

Maybe he just doesn’t like tapas?

Of course, the most famous example of Romney’s international slights happened in jolly olde England, where he insulted Brits by questioning their readiness for the London Olympics and noting how small their houses are.

And he might not be too popular in Moscow, either, since he declared Russia to be a major “geopolitical foe.”

He also irritated Japan when he declared at an August fundraiser: “We are not Japan. We are not going to be a nation that suffers in decline and distress for a decade or a century.”

So, with the Romney family due for a vacation after the election no matter the outcome, perhaps they could follow the Griswolds’ itinerary. Too bad they’re too large a bunch to fit into a Citroen.

But while Romney doles out insults, taking the opposite approach has its perils, too. Loop fans might recall that spectacular video from a Dutch TV broadcast (See the video at wapo.st/dutchtv) that pokes fun at Obama’s penchant for complimenting foreign dignitaries by saying that their country “punches above its weight.”

He said it about the Netherlands — and about Norway, Ireland and the Philippines. As the newscast points out, Obama’s also fond of telling all our allies that they’re our “strongest” or “closest” of all.

Maybe get the guy a thesaurus?

Aisle be damned

Every so often, a piece of legislation comes along that you can’t believe wasn’t made into law eons ago.

One such bill is S. 710, a relatively under-the-radar measure that President Obama signed Friday. It requires companies to keep electronic records of the hazardous waste that’s zooming around the country.

So, wait a sec. That means that until now, there have been only flimsy paper documents chronicling the comings and goings of dangerous junk, which could easily go up in flames (because that’s sometimes what happens to hazardous waste)?

Yup.

Without it, say there’s an overturned truck on the side of the highway that’s oozing some sort of goo. The rig is marked “Hazardous Materials.” Firefighters and EMTs have only one way of immediately figuring out what the truck is carrying: Go into the cab and find the piece of paper where it’s written.

“First responders aren’t always eager to go poking around like that,” says David Case, executive director of the Environmental Technology Council, which advocated for the bill. As for why the law wasn’t changed sooner, he says advocates “have been scratching their heads for years over this one.”

And in case one needed any more evidence of how much a no-brainer this one is, bipartisan sponsorship included both Sens. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). The climate-change denier and the tree hugger, respectively, apparently found common ground — Inhofe apparently liked that the bill would save companies money, while Boxer’s angle was more environmental.

Lawmakers like to talk about common-sense legislation, but this one is more like “Duh!” legislation.

Know your audience

Barking up the wrong tree?

Political campaign fundraising letters are often sent to the wrong people — especially toward the end of a campaign, as the push for cash becomes critical and the mailing lists become less reliable.

Take a recent Romney solicitation letter that laid out strong reasons for people to open their wallets and help him out.

“It’s going to take more than rhetoric and empty promises to put Americans back to work,” the letter, signed by “Mitt,” began, noting that “President Obama’s policies created a deeper recession and delayed the recovery.”

“America desperately needs strong leadership,” the Romney letter said, and “cannot afford another four years of Barack Obama’s fiscally irresponsible policies.” What’s more, “Liberals should be ashamed that they and their policies have failed these good and decent Americans!”

Good, strong stuff. Alas, it was sent to Tom Kahn, who, since 1997, has been Democratic staff director of the House Budget Committee.

He’s probably not disposed to contributing — or feeling any shame.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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