On Monday evening I participated in an event attended mostly by right-wing Republicans. Needless to say, I was just about the only Jew in the room, aside from my mother and maybe one other member of the tribe who hasn’t been drinking the Democrats’ Kool-Aid. Turning to my dinner companion to discuss the topic of the day, I asked him his opinion about presidential contender Mitt Romney’s chances for electoral victory over President Barack Obama on November 6.
“I think he’s going to win,” he said. “That’s the good news.”
“It’s also the bad news," he then quipped.
I’ve grown used to hearing such sentiments emerging from my political camp, though some Republicans don’t even believe Romney is going to beat Obama. Or at least they didn’t believe it, until his performance in the first presidential debate made them reconsider their pessimism.
What my dinner companion was expressing, however, was a lack of enthusiasm for a candidate he considers too liberal. Romney is likely to become president, he feels — even hopes — but so what?
Here is my answer to him, in greater detail than our dinner chat allowed.
Anyone learning first aid is taught to prioritize treatment according to the type, location, and severity of bodily harm. A car-accident victim, for example, is likely to have more than one injury, which means that a set of on-the-spot diagnoses is necessary to discern which trauma requires the most immediate attention. If he has broken limbs, is bleeding, and turning blue, he must be resuscitated before anything else.
This is the condition of the United States. It has multiple wounds, many of them critical. The very first order of business is to breathe oxygen back into its lungs. This requires replacing Obama with a president who has faith in America’s ability to be a beacon for the rest of the world.
Whether Romney is the best possible replacement for the current occupant of the Oval Office remains to be seen. But judging by his address to the Virginia Military Institute on Monday, he is certainly a better option. In his speech, titled “The Mantle of Leadership,” Romney spelled out his foreign policy, emphasizing America’s role in the world as a torch-bearer of “decency and hope.”
His delivery was stellar. And though some of his points were either a tad on the weak side or a bit too optimistic about the yearning for peace and democracy on the part of the “Arab Spring” revolutionaries and about the establishment of a Palestinian state, his overall message was one of strength and moral clarity.
“This is what makes America exceptional,” he said (taking a swipe at Obama for having said that each country considers itself to be exceptional, and that each country is exceptional in its own way). “It is not just the character of our country; it is the record of our accomplishments. America has a proud history of strong, confident, principled global leadership. …”
"… 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," he continued.
Such statements alone are reason enough to rest assured that the country would be in better hands with Romney at the helm. Still, concern about what concrete steps he will take “to use America’s great power to shape history” is legitimate. We’ve heard it before, from George W. Bush for instance, and even he grew soft in his second term, succumbing to pressures at home and abroad to the point where his previous vision became nearly unrecognizable.
Little did we realize how much worse it would — and did — get with Obama in the White House.
It is with this in mind that one can take comfort in what Romney iterated — and hinted at — with regard to the Jewish state and the Islamic republic. “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,” he said. “The president explicitly stated that his goal was to put ‘daylight’ between the United States and Israel. And he has succeeded. This is a dangerous situation that has set back the hope of peace in the Middle East and emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran. … I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have.”
Lest one be inclined to smirk at this last bit, as I did when I first heard it — because of how effective all these “sanctions” have been at providing more time for Tehran to enrich uranium and step up centrifuge production — do listen carefully to Romney’s subsequent statement.
"I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region, and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions — not just words — that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated. 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.”
What Romney was indicating here was that if military action needs to be taken against Iran’s nuclear facilities, the United States under his presidency would lead — or at least join — Israel in the endeavor.
This is not merely “good news,” as my dinner companion would say. But it would constitute the real revival of an ailing America.
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring,’" now available on Amazon and in bookstores in Europe and North America.