12 October 2012

A Foreign Policy Steered by OIP Derangement Syndrome

Among the symptoms of what I’ve been calling OIP Derangement Syndrome are:
  • saying obviously false things critical of President Barack Obama.
  • changing one’s position on issues in order to oppose President Obama.
Since Mitt Romney already has a tendency to say obviously false things and to change many positions, it’s can be hard to know if he’s developed OIP Derangement Syndrome, is pandering to people who have it, or simply doing what comes naturally to him.

Romney’s recent speech on foreign policy provides a case study. As Rick Ungar wrote on the Forbes website, Romney lied when he said, “The President has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years.”

In fact, President Obama renegotiated treaties with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea; pushed them through Congress; and signed them in 2011. Given how much value Romney finds in free trade, I have to assume he follows that topic closely, so his inability to acknowledge the truth even after multiple corrections looks like OIP Derangement Syndrome.

Romney also said, “I will roll back President Obama’s deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense that would devastate our military.” That refers to the “sequestration” forced by the intransigence of Congressional Republicans, including Rep. Paul Ryan, which the President actually hopes to avoid. In sum, Romney blamed President Obama for a problem his own running mate had helped to create. But that looks like pandering to OIP Derangement Syndrome.

Then there’s the problem of Israel and Palestine. In his foreign-policy speech Romney said:
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.
However, earlier in the year Romney told a closed-door fundraiser in Florida:
I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way. So what you do is, you say, you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem.
Romney thus called the problem unsolvable yet blamed President Obama for not solving it. He also implied that the Obama administration doesn’t have “the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel” while he does. So that’s a lie, a reversal, and an unfair accusation all in one. Definitely OIP Derangement Syndrome, as well as pandering.

And then there was Romney’s criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of Libya. As early as October 2011, Jake Tapper at ABC News noted that Romney had been for more aggressive action, then against it, then for it again—though never specifying what action he would prefer. At one point he ran away from reporters asking for a comment on the issue. He preferred to wait for Republicans to reach some consensus and then try to position himself there—an odd tactic for someone who complains about a leadership vacuum. But that’s what comes naturally to Romney in a field he doesn’t know much about.

On Libyan policy Romney’s only consistency over the last two years has to claim that President Obama was doing it wrong—somehow. Then came his first response to the Benghazi attack, when he blamed the Obama administration while also misstating basic facts—and maintained that position even after his errors became clear. That incident showed how Romney’s criticism of the President’s foreign policy isn’t based on facts or judgment. It’s based on OIP Derangement Syndrome.

(The photograph above, courtesy of the Charleston, South Carolina, Post and Courier, shows the London Sun’s response to Romney’s previous attempt to establish his foreign-policy credentials.)

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