Former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined a famous phrase that "everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts." Apparently, the Republican candidates for president, led by former Governor Romney, have been so busy talking with each other that they have somehow developed an alternative universe of facts, one which both distorts President Obama's record and disregards their own.
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In a world in which the stakes of our foreign policy are so high, it is dangerous to ignore these distortions.
Gov. Romney recklessly and inaccurately misrepresents President Obama's record of leadership in foreign policy in general. His disdain for the President Obama's foreign policy conveniently ignores the president's leadership in building international coalitions which have imposed exceptionally stiff sanctions on Iran and which have led to the destruction of the Qaddafi regime in Libya. It seems to forget that it is President Obama who led the effort to kill Osama bin Laden, who is keeping his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq by the end of this year, and who has broadened and deepened U.S.-Israeli defense cooperation so that it is stronger than ever before.
And, ironically, in terms of inventing his own facts, the core policies Romney advocates have already been accomplished by President Obama. (Perhaps the former Governor has not been paying attention.) For example, Romney argues that current sanctions against Iran are weak and specifically states that "if there ever was a possibility of gaining the Kremlin's support for tougher sanctions against Tehran ... President Obama foreclosed it." But he fails to recognize that President Obama succeeded, where others had failed, in obtaining both Russian and Chinese support for international sanctions against Iran, sanctions as a result of the president's leadership are the strongest that have been obtained by any U.S. president.
Gov. Romney suggests that President Obama failed to support the Green revolution in Iran - despite the fact that President Obama held a press conference to "strongly condemn" the "unjust actions" of the Iranian regime regarding the Iranian protesters.
Romney never tires in asserting his false claims that U.S. support for Israel under President Obama is inadequate. In his OpEd last week in the Wall Street Journal, Romney says he would "increase military assistance to Israel," but neglects to note that Israel's Minister of Defense and Prime Minister have thanked President Obama for the U.S.'s "unprecedented" military assistance and security cooperation, which is closer now than ever before.
Yet, this same candidate (never worrying about saying something different from one speech to the next), in a Republican candidates debate on November 12, 2011 -- two days after his op-ed, took the opposite tack and joined Texas Governor Perry in asserting that foreign aid to all countries, including Israel, should begin at "ZERO." Is this his idea of how the U.S. should increase needed support for Israel?
Romney's inaccurate assertions are sufficiently irresponsible standing alone - but are also contrary to the historic and cherished American notion that politics stops at the water's edge. Yet they come from a man who, when asked whether he would need Congressional consent for a military raid on Iran, said that he would first have to ask his lawyers! Specifically, he said, "You sit down with your attorneys and they tell you what you have to do." Even the Wall Street Journal editorialized that it would be "dangerous" that a Chief Executive would feel he needed to defer to his lawyers about whether he could use force to defend the country.
And, for someone who claims to be so tough on Iran - and so supportive of continued sanctions - why has he allowed his charitable foundation to invest in companies who do hundreds of millions of dollars of business with Iran? Though Romney has rhetorically expressed his strong hostility to Iran and China, it was reported that his charity purchased and sold investment shares in more than a dozen ... companies that have conducted dealings with Iran, China or stem cell research, according to the Associated Press on August 12, 2011. The AP also reported that, as recently as 2009, "Romney's charity purchased shares in Petroleo Brasilia, which invested $100 million to develop Iranian oil and natural gas reserves."
President Obama's policies toward Iran have been tough and clear. As has been his staunch support for Israel. This president understands the threat which a nuclear Iran poses to the international community. That a serious candidate for the Presidency would intentionally distort and misrepresent that clear policy does a disservice to our nation.
Senator Moynihan would remind Governor Romney that expressing his opinion is fine, but inventing facts does not advance public policy.
Mel Levine is a former member of the US House of Representatives (D-CA)