Team Obama: Romney really needs to prove his overseas trip isn’t “one long photo op and fundraising tour”

posted at 6:41 pm on July 23, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

Mitt Romney is embarking on an international visit later this week, heading to London on Thursday for the Olympic opening ceremonies and then swinging through Poland and Israel — and given the nature of presidential politics, no matter what Mitt Romney does, the Obama camp can of course be relied upon to come up with uber-lame reasons to criticize him for it. Says former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs:

“The American people demand and require something greater of their political candidates than speaking to a fundraising reception,” he said. “The bar really is whether or not Mitt Romney really is finally going to shed a little light on what appears to be the secrecy of his foreign policy plans.”

Oh, I’m sorry, do the American people demand their political candidates to do something more than speak at fundraisers? Because I’m pretty sure that’s what our president has been doing practically non-stop for ages now, and even if he didn’t raise money with his physical presence overseas during the 2008 campaign, he’s certainly getting plenty of money from abroad right now. Also, I might add that the attempt to make all of Mitt Romney’s intentions seem fully masked in a shroud of “secrecy” on every front is getting really old, really fast. Gibbs continued,

“He’ll need to prove to the American people that he sees foreign policy issues as worthy of substantive discussion rather than just generality and soundbites in this campaign,” said campaign spokesman Robert Gibbs. “It’s widely accepted that President Obama has an exceptionally strong record on national security issues, and I think quite frankly Mitt Romney is having a tough time making an argument against the president of the United States on these issues.” …

“I think at the end of that trip, the American people knew where Barack Obama stood on all the major foreign issues of the day. The question, I think, for Gov. Romney, is whether this trip will be similarly substantive, and live up to the bar set in 2008,” Gibbs said.

First of all, as to the “high bar” set by candidate Obama in 2008 with his extensive pre-election overseas trip — yes, I quite agree. If, you know, that high bar consists entirely of popularity-contesting shmooze-fests with the European liberal masses, then yeah, sure. And secondly, it was a conference call, so the world may never know, but I have to wonder if Gibbs managed to keep a straight face when he was touting President Obama’s “widely-accepted,” “exceptionally strong record on national security issues.” Heh.

“President Obama thinks visiting our closest ally in the Middle East is a ‘distraction,’ that Hugo Chavez is not a ‘serious’ threat, and that the right response to Russia is to promise more ‘flexibility’ in exchange for giving him ‘space’ before the election,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “It is clear that President Obama’s foreign policy is confused, ineffective, and has weakened our influence in every region of the world.” …

“In no region of the world is our country’s influence any stronger than it was four years ago,” said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. “President Obama has failed to restore our economy, is weakening our military with devastating defense cuts, and has diminished our moral authority. Governor Romney will restore the pillars of American strength to secure our interests and defend our values.”

It looks to me like Romney’s trip is making Team Obama nervous, and they’re attempting to frame it as cheap and shallow before Romney can even get out of the gate. Obama’s own failure to visit Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East, during his presidency (oh, but don’t worry, he’ll get around to it in a second term of course!), compared to Romney’s willingness to stand tall about his staunchly pro-Israel views and his personal friendship with Netanyahu, looks pretty weaksauce. It’s going to be a sticking point with pro-Israel voters and the Jewish community. As Jennifer Rubin writes:

The Obama campaign can’t bear the thought that the well-traveled Mitt Romney will make a nice impression on his overseas tour. So it held today what can only be described as a petulant call with reporters, trying to spin the media that Obama’s trip abroad in 2008 was “substantive.” (If so, it was grossly inappropriate since the country had another president at the time.) Oddly, the spin call’s account of 2008 left out the Berlin speech. Why? …

The real danger for the Obama team is that the public (to the extent it cares at all about foreign policy) will compare the promise of Obama to the reality. Here he was in 2008: “This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East. My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions. We must support the Lebanese who have marched and bled for democracy, and the Israelis and Palestinians who seek a secure and lasting peace.” The reality is the “peace process” is dead, Iran moves steadily toward nuclear-weapons capability, Syrians are dying by the thousands and Obama has done nothing for the people of Lebanon.


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