I wanted to expand on a half-formed post to a forum elsewhere on Romney’s adventures in other countries. There’s a long list of items in diplomacy that you don’t mention unless you mean to send specific messages. His Jerusalem comment suggests that Mitt Romney is striking a balance between pandering to a domestic audience and catering to the deluded “serious thinkers” that lied the US into Iraq and recklessly mismanaged our relations with other countries during the George W. Bush presidency. That he does so in the context of quoting Pinochet admirer Paul Johnson, with a foreign policy team composed primarily of unapologetic, unreconstructed neocons, in the midst of having cited grotesque “culture uber alles” racist polemics as the core of his vision of economic progress…well, let’s just say it’s becoming increasingly clear who has final clearance on foreign policy comments. Unlike Laura Hughes, I’m not sanguine about the inclusion of men like Robert Kagan on his team. That’s because I don’t regard him as “moderate” so much as realpolitik in all of the self-deluded ways that have enabled extremists to hijack American foreign policy again and again.
This trip is rapidly demonstrating that he’s willing to do the same thing he did with domestic politics with foreign policy, namely kiss the ultraright ring. Again, as with domestic policy actions and concrete policy speak louder than rhetoric. But if it’s part of a strategy, the “Jerusalem” line needs to be judged in the overall tapestry of Strong America he’s weaving rather than in terms of the individual merits of the issue on an intellectual level. As an example, many people can say “Taiwan is independent of China” as something that is practically true and something the Taiwanese should have the most say in, but you’d better have a good reason if you’re going to drop that bomb in a speech in Taipei or Shanghai as a devil horns headbang towards the fans back home.
In contrast, I don’t think there’s much to the accusation that Romney is undermining the US as a whole by being critical of the president abroad. He should be assessed on the merits of each disagreement rather than failing to keep nationalist unity. In this case, almost every one of his divergences has been ridiculous bordering on Strangelovian, so it’s easy for them to fail in their own right. I’m not sure there’s much of a sound cost-benefit analysis for this sort of bull in a china shop behavior since he’s doing it for the benefit of people who were never, ever going to vote for anyone else or who simply don’t care much about foreign policy. But I think in the US we underestimate how closely people in other countries watch what presidents and candidates say domestically with reference to them anyway, and overestimate the importance of solidarity in the face of furriners as a function of knee-jerk patriotism. There’s plenty to be embarrassed about without getting into manufactured outrage about loyalty.