A hidden camera that caught Mitt Romney speaking at a private fundraising dinner has grabbed a lot of media attention today. Network news is focusing primarily on a single portion of the candid-camera speech in which Romney derides “47 percent” of the population who doesn’t pay income taxes and therefore will automatically vote for Obama. This should be really effective at grabbing that 5 percent of swing voters, Ol’ Mitt. Truthfully, this is one of the most poorly run campaigns I’ve seen in a long time.
But there are other parts of the video not being talked about as much. Via David Corn at Mother Jones, Romney also talks – off the script! – about Iran, Israel-Palestine, and broader foreign policy issues. They are shocking in their ignorance.
On Iran, Mother Jones reports, “He repeated the tough talk he has issued on the campaign trail, but he also provided an odd reason for drawing a red line with Tehran about its nuclear program”:
I’ve heard a lot of outlandish reasons to consider Iran a threat, but sending Hezbollah to Chicago with a dirty bomb is almost record-breaking in its absurdity. First of all, Romney uttered these words in the context of giving Iran a “red line” in its nuclear enrichment past which it could not avoid US military action, but, as David Corn writes, he “didn’t appear to understand that a dirty bomb—an explosive device that spreads radioactive substances—does not require fissile material from a nuclear weapons program. Such a bomb can be produced with, say, radioactive medical waste. If Iran’s nuclear program poses a threat, it is not because this project will yield a dirty bomb.”
Furthermore, this ridiculous scenario recklessly overestimates the capabilities of Hezbollah and the stupidity of Iran. In the context of their nuclear program, Iran is interested in deterring military threats from the US and Israel – not in committing national suicide by provoking a nuclear war for which they are pathetically outmatched.
On Israel-Palestine, Romney said he was convinced of two things (1) the Palestinians don’t want peace, only the destruction of Israel, and (2) the conflict is unsolvable, and so he would make no effort as president to solve it.
Again, we see a dramatic lack of basic understanding about the issue here. Here’s Ali Gharib’s response to this:
These objections are not obstacles to peace, as Romney suggests, but rather functions of a two-state solution—except for Syria and Jordan bordering the West Bank, which are functions of reality. No sovereign country would cede control of its air space. As for Israel’s thin waist, Martin van Creveld, who has more strategic chops than Romney in his little finger, convincingly argues that “strategic depth,” as permanent occupation is known to Israeli rightists, is a canard: “Israel can easily afford to give up the West Bank” with “negligible” risk. Keeping the territories is what poses the risk—permanently subjugating millions of Palestinians and denying them citizenship political rights is untenable—and it’s a fate Romney seems contentedly resigned to.
Indeed, much of Israel’s insistence to keep up the occupation of the West Bank lies in the kind of dogmatic, uncompromising ideology Romney assigns to the Palestinians. The true Israeli objection to settlement is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “committed to the retention of most if not all of the West Bank,” Harry Siegman, President of the U.S./Middle East Project, has written, “as are most other members of his government, most of whom belong to the ‘Whole Land of Israel Caucus’ in Israel’s Knesset.”
Indeed, the Prime Minister’s Likud Party Charter declares Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza “the realization of Zionist values” and that the whole of the West Bank and Jerusalem belong to Israel (“The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river”). I don’t believe there’s anything in there about Iran infiltrating the West Bank to launch attacks on Israel.
The concerns that informed voters have repeatedly expressed about Romney, that he hasn’t much clue about foreign policy, are reaffirmed by the release of these videos.
Update: Mother Jones has now posted the entirety of Romney’s hidden camera speech. See it here. One notable quote from a portion on foreign policy: “For me, everything is about strength, and communicating to people what is and is not acceptable.” Can you envision a more authoritarian articulation of grand strategy?