Media outlets praised Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's speech on foreign policy, calling it "tremendous" and "a fabulous speech that exuded leadership." But the speech relied on numerous falsehoods, including many that have already been debunked.
Media Cheer Romney's "Tremendous" Foreign Policy Speech
Fox's Carl Cameron: Romney Speech "Was An Across-The-Board Assault On Obama Administration Foreign Policy." In a report on Romney's speech, Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron stated:
CAMERON: This was an across-the-board assault on Obama administration foreign policy, suggesting that the commander in chief's strategy of hope is not a strategy, and that the world and the nation can't afford to have its security put at risk anymore with another four years of Mr. Obama. [Fox News, America Live, 10/8/12]
FoxNews.com: Romney Gave A "More Robust Explanation Of How He'd Lead In The World." A FoxNews.com article about Romney's foreign policy speech described Romney as providing a "more robust explanation of how he'd lead in the world, not just America." From the article:
Romney spoke at the Virginia Military Institute in what was billed as a major foreign policy address. After aggressively challenging the incumbent on economics at last week's debate, Romney is looking to build on that performance with a more robust explanation of how he'd lead in the world, not just America.
The nominee argued Monday that Obama has watched passively as the Middle East has transformed, describing the recent deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya as part of that upheaval. [FoxNews.com, 10/8/12]
WSJ: Romney's Speech "Focused Mainly On The Caliber Of Leadership" Romney "Said He Would Offer." Following the speech, the Wall Street Journal described Romney's speech as being focused on "the caliber of leadership" Romney would offer as president:
Monday's speech at the Virginia Military Institute focused mainly on the caliber of leadership Mr. Romney said he would offer, while casting Mr. Obama as a timid commander in chief. Mr. Romney also offered specifics of plans for handling Israeli-Palestinian relations and of how he would work with governments that have emerged from the Arab Spring. [The Wall Street Journal, 10/8/12]
USA Today: Romney "Cast Obama As Weak And Responsible For Lowering America's Standing Around The Globe." After Romney's speech, USA Today claimed "Romney cast Obama as weak and responsible for lowering America's standing across the globe." From USA Today:
Mitt Romney today stepped up his criticism of President Obama's foreign policy and his handling of hot spots in the Middle East, as he aimed to show a contrast with his rival on Iran, Libya and Syria.
In a speech at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney cast Obama as weak and responsible for lowering America's standing around the globe. Romney charged that "hope is not a strategy." [USA Today, 10/8/12]
Rush Limbaugh: Romney Delivered A "Fabulous Speech That Exuded Leadership." During the October 8 edition of Premiere Radio Network's The Rush Limbaugh Show, host Rush Limbaugh reacted to Mitt Romney's foreign policy speech by calling it "tremendous," "fabulous," and "presidential." He added that it "exuded leadership" and that "it was a message of peace through strength, and it was delivered with great clarity." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/8/12]
Romney's Speech Was Bolstered By Numerous Smears And False Attacks
IN SPEECH, ROMNEY FLIP-FLOPPED ON PEACEFUL NEGOTIATIONS TO MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT
In Speech, Romney Expressed Hope For "A Democratic, Prosperous Palestinian State Living Side By Side In Peace And Security With" Israel. In his speech, Romney spoke hopefully of a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians:
ROMNEY: Finally, I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel. On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew. [Mitt Romney, 10/8/12, via ABC News]
Romney In May: The Idea Of Pressuring Palestinians And Israelis To Act Is "Just Wishful Thinking." Speaking to donors in May, Romney scoffed at the idea of enforcing a Middle East peace process, saying that the idea of pushing the Israelis "to give something up, to get the Palestinians to act, is the worst idea in the world." He went on to call it "wishful thinking":
On the other hand, I got a call from a former secretary of state -- and I won't mention which one it was -- but this individual said to me, "You know, I think there's a prospect for a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis after the Palestinian elections." I said, "Really?" And his answer was, "Yes, I think there's some prospect." And I didn't delve into it but you know, I always keep open the idea of, I have to tell ya, the idea of pushing on the Israelis? -- to give something up, to get the Palestinians to act, is the worst idea in the world. We have done that time and time and time again. It does not work.
So, the only answer is show your strength. Again, American strength, American resolve, as the Palestinians someday reach the point where they want peace more than we're trying to push peace on them -- and then it's worth having the discussion. Until then, it's just wishful thinking. [Mitt Romney's May 17 address to donors, 9/19/12, via Mother Jones]
ROMNEY PUSHED RIGHT-WING MEDIA'S BOGUS INTERPRETATION OF "LEADING FROM BEHIND"
Romney: Our President Should Not "Lead From Behind" As Obama Has Done. During his speech, Romney echoed the right-wing media narrative that Obama is "leading from behind" on his foreign policy, a distortion of a statement made by an unnamed Obama adviser last May:
ROMNEY: I want to be very clear: The blame for the murder of our people in Libya, and the attacks on our embassies in so many other countries, lies solely with those who carried them out -- no one else. But it is the responsibility of our President to use America's great power to shape history -- not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events. Unfortunately, that is exactly where we find ourselves in the Middle East under President Obama. [Mitt Romney, 10/8/12 via ABC News]
In Fact, As New Yorker's Ryan Lizza Explained, "The Quote Actually Is The Opposite Of What You Are Saying." The "leading from behind" quote originated in a New Yorker article written by Ryan Lizza in May 2011. As Lizza explained on CNN, however, the quote was not an admission that Obama has a weak foreign policy; it actually refers to the Obama administration's successful effort to lead "a coalition in the U.N. to get military authorization to topple Gadhafi." Lizza continued:
LIZZA: So the quote actually is the opposite of what you're saying. It actually refers to the strategy that Obama used in the U.N. to get all of the nations to support the U.S.' use of force resolution, because after the Bush years it was really hard for the U.S. to go to the U.N. and get support for the use of force because Bush was really, really unpopular. [CNN, Starting Point, 9/4/12, via Media Matters]
ROMNEY REPEATED DEBUNKED CLAIM THAT U.S. NAVY IS AT SMALLEST LEVELS SINCE WORLD WAR I
Romney: "The Size Of Our Navy Is At Levels Not Seen Since 1916." During his speech, Romney echoed his previous claim that the "size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916." From the speech:
ROMNEY: The size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916. I will restore our Navy to the size needed to fulfill our missions by building 15 ships per year, including three submarines. I will implement effective missile defenses to protect against threats. And on this, there will be no flexibility with Vladimir Putin. And I will call on our NATO allies to keep the greatest military alliance in history strong by honoring their commitment to each devote 2 percent of their GDP to security spending. Today, only 3 of the 28 NATO nations meet this benchmark. [Mitt Romney, 10/8/12 via ABC News]
In Fact, As PolitiFact Noted, "Counting The Number Of Ships Or Aircraft Is Not A Good Measurement Of Defense Strength." After Romney claimed during a GOP primary debate that our "Navy is smaller than it's been since 1917," PolitiFact ruled the statement "false," noting that the comparison is based simply on the number of vehicles the Navy operates, which is "not a good measurement of defense strength":
Counting the number of ships or aircraft is not a good measurement of defense strength because their capabilities have increased dramatically in recent decades. Romney's comparison "doesn't pass 'the giggle test,' " said William W. Stueck, a historian at the University of Georgia.
Consider what types of naval ships were used in 1916 and 2011. The types of ships active in both years, such as cruisers and destroyers, are outfitted today with far more advanced technology than what was available during World War I. More importantly, the U.S. Navy has 11 aircraft carriers (plus the jets to launch from them), 31 amphibious ships, 14 submarines capable of launching nuclear ballistic missiles and four specialized submarines for launching Cruise missiles -- all categories of vessels that didn't exist in 1916.
[M]ost experts we spoke to felt that Romney's critique was misguided. [Commonwealth Institute expert Charles] Knight went so far as to offer this reply:
"If Mr. Romney wants a truly stark example of diminished military capability, he should compare today's horse cavalry to that in 1917, or even 1941 when there were still 15 active horse-cavalry regiments in the Army. Today there has been total disarmament of horse cavalry,' he might say, 'leaving our nation defenseless in this regard.' His chosen comparisons are almost as absurd." [PolitiFact, 1/18/12]
ROMNEY FALSELY CLAIMED OBAMA HAS "NO TRADE AGENDA TO SPEAK OF"
Romney: Obama "Has Not Signed One New Free Trade Agreement In The Past Four Years." During his speech, Romney claimed that under the Obama administration, "we have no trade agenda to speak of":
ROMNEY: I know the President hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy. We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to speak of, and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity.
ROMNEY: I will champion free trade and restore it as a critical element of our strategy, both in the Middle East and across the world. The President has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years. I will reverse that failure. I will work with nations around the world that are committed to the principles of free enterprise, expanding existing relationships and establishing new ones. [Mitt Romney, 10/8/12 via ABC News]
In Fact, Obama Has Renegotiated Several Trade Agreements And Is Working Toward A New One. As The Hill noted, Obama has renegotiated several free-trade agreements, and while he has not yet signed a new one, he is in the process of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership:
Obama renegotiated three free-trade agreements that were signed by former President George W. Bush with Panama, Colombia and South Korea and worked with Congress to get them approved. He has not signed any new free-trade agreements, however.
The Obama administration is moving forward with a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) regional free-trade agreement that was also started by Bush. [The Hill, 10/8/12]
ROMNEY HID GOP ROLE IN SEQUESTRATION DEAL
Romney: "I Will Roll Back President Obama's Deep And Arbitrary Cuts To Our National Defense." During his speech, Romney referred to the automatic cuts to defense, negotiated as part of last summer's debt ceiling deal, as "President Obama's deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense":
ROMNEY: And I will roll back President Obama's deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense that would devastate our military. I will make the critical defense investments that we need to remain secure. The decisions we make today will determine our ability to protect America tomorrow. The first purpose of a strong military is to prevent war.
ROMNEY: Our friends and allies across the globe do not want less American leadership. They want more--more of our moral support, more of our security cooperation, more of our trade, and more of our assistance in building free societies and thriving economies. So many people across the world still look to America as the best hope of humankind. So many people still have faith in America. We must show them that we still have faith in ourselves--that we have the will and the wisdom to revive our stagnant economy, to roll back our unsustainable debt, to reform our government, to reverse the catastrophic cuts now threatening our national defense, to renew the sources of our great power, and to lead the course of human events. [Mitt Romney, 10/8/12 via ABC News]
In Fact, Sequestration Was The Result Of A Deal Agreed To By Both Parties. As Talking Points Memo noted, sequestration -- automatic cuts to the budget that would be triggered in case of congressional inaction -- was an agreement that members of both parties agreed to as "an enforcement mechanism":
In a private meeting with his conference, Boehner said the sequester exists, "for one reason: because the President of the United States didn't want to deal with the debt limit again before the presidential election. Because the president didn't want to be inconvenienced, he came up with the sequester."
The history here is much different and much more complicated. Boehner himself touched off the debt limit standoff by demanding that Congress match each dollar provided in new borrowing authority with a dollar of cuts to federal spending. President Obama was content to use the debt limit as a forcing mechanism to bring down 10-year deficits, but he wanted a deal that included tax revenue, and one that raised the debt limit enough to prevent the brinksmanship from returning ahead of the election. In the end, the parties were only able to agree on $1 trillion worth of cuts to discretionary spending. Under the Boehner rule that would've teed up a new debt limit crisis in the middle of the 2012 election. So leaders of both parties agreed to set up a process that would allow Congress to fast track legislation to reduce the deficit, ideally by at least $1.2 trillion. To make sure members came to agreement, both parties, including Boehner, agreed to include an enforcement mechanism that Republicans and Democrats found equally unappealing. [Talking Points Memo, 7/31/12]
ROMNEY REPEATED RIGHT-WING CLAIM THAT OBAMA HAS WEAKENED U.S.-ISRAEL RELATIONSHIP
Romney: Relationship Between Obama And Netanyahu Has "Suffered Great Strains." In his October 8 foreign policy speech Romney claimed that Obama had "put 'daylight' between the United States And Israel" and that the relationship has "suffered great strains" under Obama's administration. From the speech:
ROMNEY: The relationship between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel, our closest ally in the region, has suffered great strains. The President explicitly stated that his goal was to put "daylight" between the United States and Israel. And he has succeeded.
ROMNEY: I will reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security -- the world must never see any daylight between our two nations. [Mitt Romney, 10/8/12 via ABC News]
In Fact, Israeli Leaders Have Repeatedly Praised Obama. Obama has garnered praise from Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak, Israeli President Shimon Peres, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, each of whom has commended Obama for "doing, in regard to our security, more than anything that I can remember in the past," and for being "a great president and a great friend of Israel." [Media Matters, 9/8/12]
Majority Of Israeli Jews Hold A Favorable Opinion Of Obama. A 2011 Public Opinion Poll of Jewish and Arab Citizens of Israel by the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy found that 54 percent of Israeli Jews have a favorable view of Obama. [Brookings, 12/1/11]