Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Romney in Israel, II

Frankly, I'm surprised at the level of attention and analysis that has--and hasn't--been given to Mitt Romney's remarks about the Palestinians yesterday.   

In particular, I wonder why no one seems to be saying what seems to this writer obvious:  That Romney's comments reveal him to be profoundly incompetent for the presidency.

To begin with, there is the former governor's inability to get his facts right.  As has been widely reported, he understated the per capita income of Israelis--the people with whom he was trying to curry favor--by one-third.  Not a small fraction.  And he overstated the income of Palestinians by three to six times (I've seen figures for Palestinian income quoted at $1500 to $2900, the later attributed by The New York Times to the CIA.)  

Yes, I know, George W. used to do this kind of thing all the time.  But I thought we had moved beyond that foolishness.  Certainly, Mr. Romney has tried to project greater seriousness in his runs for the White House.  And we should demand accuracy from our President and would-be presidents, especially on facts that are easily ascertained, than this.

Then there is the question of why Romney waded into the quagmire.  The relative prosperity of Israelis and Palestinians, although a sore point with the latter, is hardly at the forefront of voters' consciousness in this country.  Very few American Jews--the group Romney was trying to win over--think about the issue.  And those who do are probably concerned by the disparity and extremely unlikely to vote for the Republican candidate.   There was only one way in which Romney could have hoped to gain from bringing up the subject, and that was to draw a searing contrast between Jews and Palestinians.  In other words, he must have known how his remarks were going to be taken, and to have intended their effect, however, much he protests to the contrary now.

Then think of the level of analysis that the would-be president revealed.  True, he quoted a book by a respected Harvard history professor.  Yet to say that "Culture makes all the difference," as Mr. Romney did, and that "I recognize the power of culture and at least a few other things," is at least to imply that Israelis are innately superior to Palestinians.  As Palestinian negotiator Saab Erekat noted, that sounds like racism.  More, it denies the complexity of the issues at hand, not to mention small factors like history and geography.  

Mr. Romney undoubtedly realized before he spoke that he was not going to get a large proportion of the Palestinian or Muslim vote.  But in the pursuit of votes, he crassly damaged the United States' position in a vital area of the world, should he become President.  And in doing so, he clearly revealed why he is not competent to hold the position.


Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper said...

Pat Lang's Sic Semper Tyrannis blog makes the same point. Romney either has no conscience or he's too ignorant to be president.

Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper said...

Juan Cole has a great piece on this aat Informed Comment.