FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Mitt Romney: a True Political Cynic

by MELVIN A. GOODMAN

Mitt Romney’s three debate performances in October 2012 have exposed his political cynicism, with the Republican candidate abandoning long-term positions in order to adopt more moderate ideas for the run-up to next month’s election.  Prior to the debates, Romney’s domestic positions resembled President Ronald Reagan’s retreat from governance particularly on entitlements and such non-defense expenditures as education and energy.  Like Reagan, Romney believes that government cannot provide the solution to any problem because government is the problem.  Last night, Romney abandoned his strident and bellicose ideas on foreign policy in order to echo President Barack Obama’s policies on Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, and Syria.  Romney’s obfuscation on domestic issues caught the president off-guard on October 3rd; his obfuscation on foreign policy issues allowed the president to expose the chicanery of the challenger.

There were no indications of the Romney who challenged the president’s withdrawal timeline for Afghanistan; would have left more troops in Iraq; considered Russia the nation’s most serious geostrategic threat; and took issue with the negotiation of the new START treaty that halved the numbers of warheads and launchers in US and Russian strategic inventories.  Romney made no mention of the tragic events in Bengazi last month, presumably because he finally realizes that the intelligence community did a poor job of anticipating and then tracking the attack on the US Consulate. 

There were issues that were not raised in the debate that would have provided stark contrasts between the president and the challenger.  Unlike Obama, who ended the practice of torture and abuse, Romney justified the use of waterboarding and his advisors have defended the “dark side” of enhanced interrogation techniques.  These advisors include Steve Bradbury, who headed the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush administration, Cully Stimson, who occupied a sensitive position in the Pentagon in the Bush administration, and such lawyers as Lee Casey and David Rivkin.  Romney’s foreign policy advisors also include many of the neoconservatives who counseled President Bush, including John Bolton, Dan Senor, and Richard Williamson. 

Bradbury’s office “authorized” the torture tactics in 2002 that were okayed by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Rice, and Attorney General Ashcroft, among others.  Unfortunately, Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, recently gave a “distinguished service award” to Assistant US Attorney John Durham, who refused to hold accountable anyone in the CIA for its brutal interrogations of detainees at secret prisons or “black sites” in connection with the Bush administration’s “war on terror” and the destruction of the infamous torture tapes. 

Romney avoided much of the Cold War language of the campaign season, but he still managed to be gratuitously aggressive toward China and Russia, who are important stakeholders in the diplomatic arena, and blithely ignorant of the multilateral diplomacy needed to coordinate effective sanctions measures against Iran and Syria.  Obama was spot on when he charged that Romney had “imported his foreign policies from the eighties, his social policies from the fifties, and his economic policies from the twenties. 

Romney’s shocking ignorance of the superiority and dominance of the Air Force and the Navy brought into question his support for an additional $2 trillion for the defense budget over the next ten years.  Prior to the debate, Romney pledged to spend at least four percent of gross domestic product on defense, a bizarre way to plan for national defense.  His support for reopening the production line for the F-22 fighter  plane would cost an additional $120 billion over the next ten years.  Romney supports a comprehensive national missile defense, which has never proven to be effective, as well as wider regional missile defenses in East Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia, which will contribute to  greater regional disarray.

In an effort to establish credibility on key regional issues, Romney merely unveiled  substantive ignorance.  His allegation that Iran viewed Syria as an outlet to the sea ignored the 1,500 miles of coastline that Iran controls on the Persian Gulf.  His call for an end to Iranian oil imports into the United States ignored the ban on such imports that was put in place by President Reagan twenty-five years ago.  His call for indicting Iran’s Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a war criminal was no more than an off-the-wall sound bite. 

Over the past four years, President Obama has demonstrated an awareness of the limits on the use of force.  The withdrawal from Iraq; the start of a withdrawal from Afghanistan; the nuanced involvement in Libya; and the hesitation on involvement in Syria reflects the war weariness of the country, the country’s budgetary problems, and the constraints of force.  Until Monday night’s debate, Romney appeared to take a page out of the John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address (“We will pay any price and bear any burden.”), which led the country into Vietnam.  Despite his conciliatory debate language, there is no reason to expect Romney to ameliorate his positions on national security, let alone his economic and social policies. 

Melvin A. Goodman is a former CIA senior analyst and the author of the forthcoming National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism (City Lights Publishers, January 2013).

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of “Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA,” “National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism,” and the forthcoming “The Path to Dissent: A Whistleblower at CIA” (City Lights Publishers, 2015).  Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

More articles by:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail