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.

February 11, 2016
Bruce Lesnick
Flint: A Tale of Two Cities
Ajamu Baraka
Beyonce and the Politics of Cultural Dominance
Shamus Cooke
Can the Establishment Fix Its Bernie Sanders Problem?
John Hazard
The Pope in Mexico: More Harm Than Good?
Joyce Nelson
Trudeau & the Saudi Arms Deal
Zarefah Baroud
The Ever-Dangerous Mantra “Drill, Baby Drill”
Anthony DiMaggio
Illinois’ Manufactured Budget Crisis
Colin Todhunter
Indian Food and Agriculture Under Attack
Binoy Kampmark
Warring Against Sanders: Totalitarian Thinking, Feminism and the Clintons
Robert Koehler
Presidential Politics and the American Soul
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: The Banality of Evil on Steroids
Cesar Chelala
In Microcephaly in Children Caused by the Zika Virus or by Pesticides?
February 10, 2016
Eoin Higgins
Clinton and the Democratic Establishment: the Ties That Bind
Fred Nagel
The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
Jeffrey St. Clair
Why Bernie Still Won’t Win
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Ramzy Baroud
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
Sheldon Richman
End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration
Benjamin Willis
Obama in Havana
Jack Smith
Obama Intensifies Wars and Threats of War
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Mark Boothroyd
Syria: Peace Talks Collapse, Aleppo Encircled, Disaster Looms
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail