Romney, Ryan and their families at the RNC in Tampa
Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan are joined on stage by family members after Romney's acceptance speech during the final session of the RNC in Tampa, Florida, August 30, 2012. Photo by Reuters
Text size

In the final scene of the Oscar winning film “The King’s Speech,” there are a few tense moments before the anxious movie audience realizes that the stammering George VI, masterfully played by Colin Firth, is not going to stumble even once during his historic speech to the British people on the eve of World War II.

The same kind of collective sigh of relief seemed to sweep through the Republican Convention hall in Tampa on Thursday night as Mitt Romney proved to his many doubters, in the party and among viewers at home, that he was not about to muck up what was universally billed as “the speech of his life.”

Indeed, like a parent whose timid child has just taken center stage, it was only a after a few long minutes that Ann Romney relaxed her stern demeanor and smiled at her husband’s stellar performance, which handily exceeded most people’s admittedly low expectations.

Indeed, one measure of Romney’s impressive oration was that it was not completely overwhelmed by the cringe-inducing cameo appearance of the 82-year-old Hollywood star Clint Eastwood, which somehow succeeded in being poignant and demeaning at the very same time. A mediocre performance by Romney would have seared the image of Eastwood talking to an empty chair as the lasting impression from a Republican convention that had to contend with nature’s ravages from beginning to end.

American commentators commended Romney for the “humanizing” stories of his parents and children and for his convincing claim that, unlike many in his party, he appreciates women and values their judgment. Romney was also effective in extolling American values and free enterprise and proved deceptively lethal in demolishing President Obama’s economic performance without crossing the line of presidential propriety.

If anyone in the White House was under the illusion that Romney would be a pushover for Obama in the upcoming presidential debates, his performance Thursday should suffice to urgently treble the hours that Obama devotes to rehearsals.

Alarm bells will also be ringing in many world capitals, from Beijing to Brussels, following Romney’s surprisingly bellicose statements on foreign policy. With the not-insignificant exception of the neocon wing in the Republican Party and in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, most foreign leaders will be surprised to learn that the “cowboy” school of foreign policy, as its detractors tend to describe it, had not retired together with former President George Bush in 2008 and may very well be planning a comeback.

Similar statements urging America to “reassert its proper place” made by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and 2008 candidate John McCain reinforce the impression that a Romney presidency might indeed entail a blast from the past that most of the world could live without.

But it’s also not completely clear that America’s independent and undecided voters are longing for those divisive days of foreign wars and entanglements that marked George Bush’s second term in office, or for  the macho bluster of “less flexibility and more backbone,” as Romney rather impetuously promised Russia’s “Mr. Putin."

Speculation about Romney’s reasons for what seemed to be a rather superfluous venture into the foreign policy/national security arena, in which Obama holds a clear advantage, might lead one to assume that he was out to please one or more of his generous yet famously hawkish benefactors.

The same might be true for Romney’s oft-repeated claim that Obama “threw Israel under the bus” a phrase that should be considered a tad extreme, given that not-inconsequential Israeli figures such as President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have repeatedly asserted that Obama has, in fact, provided Israel with more security assistance than any of his predecessors.

What’s even more disappointing about Romney’s tiresome repetition of the same formulation is that the term “throwing under a bus” was considered to be the most tedious political cliché of the 2008 primaries, in which Romney himself was roundly defeated.

At the very least, Romney might have copied the creative variation used at that time by former Idaho Senator Larry Craig who was dropped like a hot potato from Romney’s campaign in the wake of allegations that he had solicited an undercover policeman."He not only threw me under the bus,”Craig said of Romney, “He backed up and ran over me again.”

Follow me on Twitter @ChemiShalev