The Symbolic and the Serious
The Israel Leg: Not a Disaster, But Not Good
Romney's time in Israel wasn't a disaster, but it wasn't very good either.
Not a London-scale disaster, but not good.
1. The semi-promise to ABC that "I'm happy to go back and look" to see whether he's ever paid less than 13.9 percent in taxes could prove problematic down the road. This is part of what I mean. Watch the clip. See how he gets all nervous and jittery, and then this stuff just tumbles out of his mouth? It's just weird. Seems to me that phrase makes it harder for him to stonewall this out. He may rue those seven words this fall, whether he releases them or not.
2. The "culture" business. Imagine that we were back in, oh, 1880, and some snooty Chicago liberal said something like this: "I can't help but notice that per capita income in the North is much higher, and the economy much stronger, than in the Southern states. I put this down to culture, and also to providence." Somehow I think the people who are now trying to tell us that Romney did nothing wrong here would understand what an outrageous comment it was.
That said, I will not address this general topic without failing to note that PA corruption has most definitely been part of the problem. And if he had said corruption, I don't think most people would have batted an eye. But he said this other...weird, unaccountable stuff.
Still, also worth noting that he just blatantly lied today. To Fox today: I “did not speak about the Palestinian culture or the decisions made in their economy." In speech yesterday: “Culture makes all the difference." Does he think people won't notice this?
3. In fairness to him, I will note that re Jerusalem, Obama made pretty much the exact same vow in 2008 that Romney did just now. So criticism on that front wouldn't be fair.
4. The most important substantive thing that happened, which isn't getting enough attention, has to do with the crucial and vast difference between nuclear "capability" and nuclear "weaponization." The Obama position is that force would be appropriate if Iran develops an actual nuclear weapon. Romney gave Israeli the green light to bomb even if Iran has mere capability to produce a weapon. Capability is a mushy line, and it can take a country years to go from capability to producing an actual warhead. So that's a big difference. It's far more hawkish--and far less morally clear. The excellent Robert Wright of the Atlantic has more on it here, and it's well worth reading.
5. WTF was that bizarre riff on the Israeli health-care system?? It's socialized medicine, financed through taxes! It includes an individual mandate. They even have death panels--well, panels of experts who decide each year what the four HMOs Israelis must enroll in should cover.
What was that? I mean, every reasonably worldly person knows that when it comes to its domestic politics, Israel is pretty socialistic in general. Why would a Republican praise anything about its domestic policy operations? Did one of his fat cat donors over there start marveling to him about Israel's health-care system, and he didn't know the first thing about it, and he just thought, "Well, if old Schlomo here says it's aces, then by cracky it must be aces! I think I'll mention it!" I can't think of any other reason. Are conservatives mad about this?
As I said, not a disaster, but weird. And point 4 will loom large someday if the man is actually elected.