“I know you’re not one to say, ‘I told you so,’ ” Mitt Romney’s former senior foreign policy advisor, Dan Senor, told his old boss, onstage and among friends at the Israeli American Council’s inaugural conference dinner at the Washington Hilton on Friday night. “So I’ll say it for you.’’
Actually, the 2012 Republican nominee did fine on his own, rather gleefully delivering a series of kicks in the shins to the already roughed-up man who bested him two years ago. Now, though, with friends urging Romney to run for president a third time, he’s at a minimum enjoying the moment.
His top half-dozen disparagements of President Obama, in the order in which they were served alongside the challah and Tuscan salmon:
1) On Obama’s recent letter to Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urging him to sign a nuclear agreement and join in the fight against our common enemy, the Islamic State: “That the president would write a letter of this nature, in effect legitimizing a nation and a leadership that is violating international norms and is threatening the world, is so far beyond the pale, I was stunned. I was speechless.’’
Not anymore, though. Other critics of the letter have said it was absurd not because it legitimizes Iran but because it asks for two things the U.S. wants — help in defeating the Islamic State and a non-nuclear Iran — and offers nothing in return.
2) The former governor of Massachusetts reheated the “three guys walk into a bank” joke he told at a campaign event for Joni Ernst in Iowa several weeks ago, and told the story again. “It only offends the president, and I’m fine with that,’’ Romney began, laughing along with the room.
(ICYMI: “Obama went to the bank to cash a check. He didn’t have his ID. And the teller said, ‘You’ve got to prove who you are.’ And he said, ‘How should I do that?’
She said, ‘Well, the other day Phil Mickelson came in, he didn’t have his ID. So he set up a little cup on the ground, took a golf ball, putted it right into that cup, so we knew it was Phil Mickelson. We cashed the check. And then Andre Agassi came in, and Andre Agassi didn’t have his ID either. He put up a little target on the wall, took a tennis ball and a racket, hit it onto that target time and again. We knew it was Andre Agassi, so we cashed his check.”
So she said, ‘Is there anything you can do to prove who you are?’ And Obama said, ‘I don’t have a clue.’ ’’)
3) He agreed, he said, with what Hillary Clinton said about Obama’s foreign policy. (She said, “Great nations need organizing principles, and” the Obama team’s unofficial motto, “Don’t do stupid stuff is not an organizing principle.”)
“It’s tempting to think he’s just inept,’’ Romney said of Obama, “but the reality is, he does have a foreign policy” — one that’s “weakening our military and distancing us from our allies.”
4) “This president began by going into the Arab world and apologizing,’’ he said, though independent fact-checkers have dismissed the claim, and The Post’s Fact Checker gave the idea that Obama has repeatedly apologized for the United States four Pinocchios. Of the president’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Romney said, “now he’s being divisive and dictatorial and demeaning to our friends.”
5) When Senor said, “You may have heard there was an election,’’ Romney returned, “I noticed; I was on Sheldon’s plane, Air Adelson,’’ he said. Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire who contributed about $150 million to various pro-Romney groups in 2012, is also a major supporter of the Israeli American Council.
“I’m probably not as critical as some would be” of the Democrats’ very bad night, Romney said, perhaps thinking that defeats happen to the best of us.
But the tide that rolled against Democrats this time, he said, came from the fact that wages haven’t gone up, Americans have been “frightened by watching beheadings” online and, finally, “an administration that can’t seem to run government right.”
(He also said Democratic candidates “took the wrong strategy” in distancing themselves so completely from the president. “Katherine Grimes wouldn’t say who she voted for!’’ he said, referring to unsuccessful Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, who may well have changed her name since her loss to Mitch McConnell on Tuesday.)
6) Finally, he characterized the president’s approach as the naïve belief that “we can all get together and say, ‘Kumbaya.’ The president says we have common interests” with adversaries, “and I don’t agree. This is a battle going on, and you don’t start shedding the members of your team” in the red-hot middle of it, he said to huge applause.
At the end of his back-and-forth with Senor, the former aide urged him to stay on the public stage — and someone in the crowd did shout, “ ’16!”
“It is refreshing to hear your voice,” is how Senor put it. “And it would be doubly refreshing to hear your voice in the public debate going forward.”