Political Animal


October 29, 2011 9:20 AM Giving ‘leading from behind’ new meaning

By Steve Benen

Mitt Romney likes to talk about “American exceptionalism” and maintaining the United States’ role as “the undisputed leader of the world,” but I’m not sure if he knows quite what that means.

Ben Armbruster reports on the former governor’s latest thoughts on U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Now it seems that a President Romney will allow the Israeli government to decide American policy toward that country. The free daily newspaper Israel Hayom — a media outlet closely associated with right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — asked Romney if, as president, he would ever consider moving the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In his answer, Romney made some astonishing claims.

First, that his policy toward Israel will be guided by Israeli leaders; second, on the Jerusalem issue, he’d do whatever Israel tells him to do; and third, he does not think the United States should take a leadership role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That’s not an exaggeration. Romney vowed that his administration’s actions would be “recommended … by Israeli leaders,” and he’d “be inclined” to do whatever Israeli leaders thought “would be helpful to their efforts.” He added, “I don’t think America should play the role of the leader of the peace process,” instead ceding the leadership role to Israel.

This comes, by the way, about a week after Romney said he’d like to see China replace the United States as the global leader on international aid and humanitarian relief.

And the week before, Romney said he would “pursue” whatever course in Afghanistan military leaders told him to take.

No matter what one thinks of Romney’s presidential candidacy, as an objective matter, I think it’s fair to say “leadership” isn’t one of his strong points.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • hells littlest angel on October 29, 2011 9:33 AM:

    Steve, this was only reported yesterday. It's really unfair to give Romney grief over positions he hasn't yet been given a chance to reverse.

  • Anonymous on October 29, 2011 9:37 AM:

    משומנת היטב שבשבת

    That's Hebrew for "well-oiled weathervane."

  • ManOutOfTime on October 29, 2011 9:42 AM:

    משומנת היטב שבשבת

    That's Hebrew for "well-oiled weathervane."

  • DAY on October 29, 2011 9:52 AM:

    Query: How many Palestinians are registered voters in the USA?

  • FRP on October 29, 2011 9:52 AM:

    I wonder what new afflication has overtaken the "Leadership" of our dear friends in the Grand Old Party . Personally I thought the wide pandemic of narcissism was really suited to the pooh bahs of centrally controlled independence .
    If Romney is ushering the new affliction , sickness it shure is a doosie as it seems to combine narcissism with a sort of language centered bipolar-ism .
    I just am beside myself with anticipation for the judges to declare what to call this and what celebrities will avail themselves for marathons to assist corporate vultures who have succumbed to משומנת היטב שבשבת מחלה , or whatever it is called .

  • JD on October 29, 2011 9:58 AM:

    Let me get this straight: Romney's big foreign policy criticism is that Obama is ceding world leadership to other nations but he wants the Chinese to assume leadership of world humanitarian efforts.

    This may seem to the untrained eye to be contradictory nonsense but I can see Romney's thinking: we should be the big dog because the Republican base likes that idea and we should cut foreign aid because the Republican base likes that idea too. The absurdity of the position only lies in reality and reality can be changed, as the anonymous Bush advisor so memorably stated about the Iraq War.

    What a contemptible cipher of a human being.

  • j on October 29, 2011 10:08 AM:

    We all know that Mittens is waiting for someone to tell him what to say!

  • MikefromArlington on October 29, 2011 10:09 AM:

    I think it's great how Romney decided to springboard his campaign with a book titled "No Appologies" which is based on a false smear. It will be fun watchong Obama make minced meat of this fallacy and the others these bozos spout off unchallenged on Faux Noise.

  • c u n d gulag on October 29, 2011 10:16 AM:

    Hells Littlest Angel - THE WINNER!!!

    I was wondering if, as HLA suggests, Romney finally DOES really settle on this, the Democrats should make up bumper stickers that say:

    "Netanyahu/Romney '12!",

    "A Vote for Mitts's a vote for Netanyahu!", or

    "Mitt Believes in Israeli Exceptionalism!"

  • jjm on October 29, 2011 10:17 AM:

    The man is utterly contemptible.

    I'm wondering if he's running as Casper Milquetoast because he secretly relishes the idea that he could be in power, a power that he, in his religiosity, would to his mind would be supreme.

    In other words, if he were to win, watch for this worm to turn definitively. When he goes to fanatics like Bork and war criminals like Phares for his advice, I think this is just a cover for the real reach for absolute authoritarian power he is looking for.

  • Kathryn on October 29, 2011 10:29 AM:

    What lim said, contemptible! Mittens is too benign a nickname for him, use to make me smile, but not anymore. He's one dangerous cipher, buyer beware.

  • Christiaan on October 29, 2011 10:37 AM:

    To be fair, he's being honest here about the actual policy of US wrt Israel. In the past decades all presidents have followed this exact same policy, they just never dared say it out loud. Though Obama has weakened this policy slightly, the emphasis is on "slightly," and he never has dared to really follow through.

  • ComradeAnon on October 29, 2011 10:38 AM:

    That's not he meant! I have no idea what he meant and actually he has no idea what he meant. But wait until the well oiled weather vane stops spinning so we can... Wow, it just keeps spinning and spinning. I think I've found a true perpetual motion machine!

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 29, 2011 10:50 AM:

    Good job on the comments everybody. I need to laugh at something, and Romney sure is easy.

  • FRP on October 29, 2011 11:03 AM:

    So Obama has resisted full fealty to our Israeli masters and has aroused the disdain of our minority leaders here .
    Obama has not been exactly , and correctly supportive .
    Why I can even recall some remarks made by the distinguished minority leadership on foreign shores that quibbled about the fastidiousness of Obama's patriotism .
    The sage heads of our putative leader , master , all around good guy and human being Benjamin Netanyahu has shaken his statesmanlike head and worried about our weakened fealty .
    A little thing like torture and Apartheid , AKA , Apart Hate , shouldn't wrinkle a master slave relationship , should it ?
    So build on Palestinian Land Binny ! Screw Obama and those wet backs who support "human dignity" after all they're just Democrats which we don't , in polite society , allow to speak , or heaven forbid vote !
    Grow up !
    The evolved survivors of society will fondly remember the extinct branches of our human family ...
    Air breathing sentimental hacks who thought pollution was a problem !

    Ha ha ha ha

    It is called industrial landscape art , sheesh .

  • cld on October 29, 2011 11:30 AM:

    Rachel Maddow said he has the spine of a gummy worm.

  • windshouter on October 29, 2011 1:24 PM:

    Mr Romney has made it the single more important plank of his campaign that as President, he will be rolled early and often by every single conservative special interest to attempt to do whatever they like. However, who among the likely Presidential nominees really isn't like that? Can you imagine any of the contenders having both the knowledge and backbone to stand up against the special interests?

  • Doug on October 29, 2011 7:41 PM:

    It's desperation. Sheer, undiluted, overpowering desperation.
    Sure, politicians make promises they realize they PROBABLY won't be able to keep, but Romney has reached a new, undreamed-of (low) level of political promise-making! If the group he's addressing has ANY potential voters, he'll agree to THEIR position/s. If the NEXT group he addresses has positions 180 degrees from the one he just addressed; why, he'll support those too!
    I've been hoping for a Perry comeback, so that when the GOP implodes it just maybe might shock some sense into those few sensible people who still vote Republican to try and take their party back. At the rate Mittens is going, if he gets the nomination, he should be able to provide the implosion BEFORE election day!
    I won't call him a prostitute, thus insulting those who actually provide a service. But I will call him what he is: a whore.