Romney thinks this mob would respect his presidency more. That's nuts.
I've never worked on a presidential campaign, but I can imagine how insular it can become. If a campaign team isn't careful, epistemic closure can take over -- a candidate thinks he or she is great, aides only look at polls and news stories that reinforce their preferred beliefs, and those who question the agreed-upon narratives are held suspect.
But if Mitt Romney's campaign actually believes its own rhetoric about foreign policy, the Republican and his aides aren't just embracing bravado; they're also slipping into delusions.
Advisers to Mitt Romney on Thursday defended his sharp criticism of President Obama and said that the deadly protests sweeping the Middle East would not have happened if the Republican nominee were president.
"There's a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you'd be in a different situation," Richard Williamson, a top Romney foreign policy adviser, said in an interview.... Williamson added, "In Egypt and Libya and Yemen, again demonstrations -- the respect for America has gone down, there's not a sense of American resolve and we can't even protect sovereign American property."
Again, I don't know Williamson personally, and his comments to the Post may be little more than partisan chest-thumping.
I'm more concerned, however, with the notion that Williamson might actually believe his own nonsense.
In Team Romney's mind, the protests in the Middle East, and the deadly raid on the consulate in Libya, are President Obama's fault. Why? Because Muslim protestors don't "respect American resolve."
If Romney were in office, the argument goes, there wouldn't be protests -- angry Muslims simply wouldn't take to the streets because they respected America too much.
The Obama campaign responded to this rhetoric by continuing to criticize the Romney campaign for shamelessly politicizing a foreign security crisis, and that's certainly a legitimate point of debate. The fact that the inexperienced Republican with no working understanding of foreign affairs is pursuing such an ugly and divisive strategy while Americans abroad are in danger is a dynamic Americans should take seriously.
But I'm inclined to think the larger problem is with the perspective itself. It's simply impossible to take such transparent nonsense seriously.
For one thing, "American resolve" looks pretty secure in the Obama era. Romney and his team may not realize this, but this president ordered the strike that killed bin Laden, decimated al Qaeda, helped topple the Gadhafi regime, and has maintained a strong, steady hand in negotiations with foreign leaders around the globe. To blame Obama for these protests is, on its face, ridiculous.
For another, Romney and his team may not remember recent history, but angry protests in the streets of countries in the Middle East and North Africa sometimes occurred before January 2009. It's shocking, I know, but it's true. What's more, there were plenty of attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities abroad before Obama took office -- many took place during Ronald Reagan's and George W. Bush's presidencies.
By the Romney campaign's reasoning, Americans should have blamed Reagan and Bush for those incidents -- they didn't command enough respect or show enough resolve.
And finally, I honestly want to know if, in the minds of Romney and his advisors, they see the angry mobs protesting in the region this week and think Romney's mere presence would make the unrest disappear. "Well, I was going to express my rage today in the streets of Cairo," the young Egyptian would say, "but since President Mitt Romney is in office and I respect his resolve, I guess I'll do something else."
I mean, really. Just how far has the Romney campaign gone? Is there no one in the entire operation who can stand up and say, "Guys, maybe we should rethink this line of attack"?