Bad habits are hard to break. Sixteen months after the electorate told him to take a hike, Mitt Romney is still lying.
He has lately embarked on a sour grapes tour, seeking to sell himself as a retroactive foreign policy expert who, by dint of his wisdom and muscle, surely would’ve prevented Vladimir Putin from committing illegal mischief in Crimea. But that’s a heavy lift for a guy who, even now, remains woefully allergic to basic facts. Last Sunday while insisting on “Face the Nation” that he would’ve been better than Obama at deterring Putin, he uncorked this beaut: “Our esteem around the world has fallen. I can’t think of a major country that has more respect - it’s hard to think of a single country - that has greater respect and admiration for America today than it did five years ago when Barack Obama became president.” He said the same thing four days earlier in The Wall Street Journal.
See, this is the problem I have with Mitt. It’s hard to take him seriously on serious issues when he persists in lying so blatantly.
He can’t think of “a major country...a single country” that looks more favorably on America since Obama took office? Let’s enlighten him with stats from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, released last July. Let’s compare the 2013 favorability percentages with those reported by Pew in 2007, during the Bush era. Ready?
In 2007, 30 percent of Germans viewed America favorably; in 2013, it was 53 percent. In 2007, 34 percent of Spaniards viewed America favorably; in 2013, it was 62 percent. In 2007, 78 percent of Israelis viewed America favorably; in 2013, it was 83 percent. In 2007, 34 percent of Chinese viewed America favorably; in 2013, it was 40 percent. And on and on. Of the 26 nations surveyed by Pew, 22 felt more positive about America. (Gallup, after surveying 130 countries in 2012, and measuring those results against its findings in 2008, reported the same upward trend.)
So Mitt had no idea what he was talking about. It reminds me of the 2012 debates, when Mitt couldn’t even master basic geography: “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world, it’s their route to the sea.” Since Iran actually has its own route to the sea - courtesy of a coastline 1,000 miles long - we were left to conclude that Mitt can’t even read a map.
There’s no need to indulge Mitt’s tough-on-Putin fantasies anyway - because the real foreign policy experts understand that Putin is playing his own game, irrespective of America’s posture. Former Defense secretary Robert Gates, who served under Bush and Obama, recently pointed out on Fox News that Russia and Crimea have a long, complicated history, and that Putin’s moves in that region obviously predate Obama.
By the way, if Mitt wants to complain about America’s global image, perhaps he should read Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia. Writing yesterday about the Crimea crisis, McFaul lamented that “the United States does not have the same moral authority as it did in the last century.” (Oooh. That must be Obama’s fault, right?) McFaul continued: “As ambassador, I found it difficult to defend our commitment to sovereignty and international law when asked by Russians, ‘What about Iraq?’”
Good luck finding a Mitt remark that dissed the war in Iraq. Back then, he apparently didn’t believe in criticizing a president in the midst of an international crisis. But that was long before he started guzzling on sour grapes.
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Philadelphia. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.