Last night Mitt Romney repeated a silly attack on Obama and failed to flank him on foreign policy. If we’re to consider truth in judging debates (and I certainly think we should), Romney lost. This is just what I predicted on Bloggingheads over the weekend:
Many pundits have committed themselves to the claim that Obama went on a tour of the world apologizing for America. The claim originated in a 2009 Wall Street Journal op-ed by Karl Rove that’s somewhat more subtle than most of the critiques it spawned, though the conclusion is still the same: Obama apologized for America .
Romney took up this line with a vengeance, making it the centerpiece of his national security message in the primaries. He even titled his campaign memoir No Apology: The Case for American Greatness .
Obama has taken a more conciliatory tone than Bush or the primary-campaign Romney, especially in the early days of his administration. He’s distanced himself from the policies of the Bush administration in ways ungracious. Yes, that’s all true. This may be foolish policy, and certainly is bad manners, but to make it the centerpiece of one’s foreign policy critique of the president is absurd.
Obama did not suggest that America had somehow fallen short but rather that Bush had fallen short of American ideals. That Obama criticized the policies of his predecessor should hardly shock us: Romney is not reluctant to criticize Obama’s foreign policy. In doing so, is he apologizing for America?
I have many friends who hate abortion and war in nearly equal measure and thus feel themselves pulled between the two candidates. I fear they’ve bought into Romney’s rhetoric too unthinkingly. For while the Republican candidate does offer an advantage to prolifers, Obama is hardly the peacenik Romney paints him as. Don’t mistake the caricature for a portrait.