US presidential candidate Mitt Romney ended a three-country world tour of Britain, Israel and Poland without appearing to have learned much from his overseas trip. Even in his attempts to water-down the impact of some of his gaffs, following an influx of negative press, he seems to have stuck to the flawed logic behind them, especially when it comes to economics.
It all started with what he thought was a simple remark regarding Britain’s hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games, when he said of the event- almost on the eve of its opening ceremony – that “there are a few things that were disconcerting.” The event has been 15 years in the planning with an expected cost of £9 billion (almost $14 billion). The timing couldn’t have been more distasteful, prompting one commentator to note that the Republican challenger “is perhaps the only politician who could start a trip that was supposed to be a charm offensive by being utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive.”
But the irony goes beyond the lack of decorum in diplomacy, where such unconstructive criticism touched a nerve in the host country. Part of the content of the criticism – namely “the stories about the private security firm not having enough people …is not something which is encouraging” – is on its own a statement that should be held against the policies of the US presidential hopeful. Just weeks before the start of the Olympics, the private security company which had won the contract to provide guards for the event found itself unable to deliver on its obligations, prompting the British government to call on 3,500 troops and take other measures to fill the gap. One could say that at the end of the day it was the public sector (you know, ‘big government’?) that saved the day.
But does the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party recognise that? Not very likely. In fact, had he paid much attention to the Olympics opening ceremony, he would have noticed the pride that the British public – righty – have in their National Health Service, which featured prominently at the spectacular show in London. Instead he chose to heap praise on the Israeli health care system for receiving less government funding than that of the US (Israel spends 8% of its GDP in contrast to America’s 18%). Yet American health care is already in an unacceptable state, where thousands die annually for not being able to afford health insurance, how many more could suffer if Washington were to splash its spending by 10%?
I don’t think the Republican nominee particularly cares, given his apparent blame for victims for their own misfortune, as can be understood for his comments regarding Israel’s financial superiority over Palestinians: it’s all a matter of “culture” and the “hand of providence”. Not only the cause-effect relationship (which includes words like ‘occupation’, ‘restrictions’ ‘displacement’, ‘refugees’, etc.) was absent, but also a very important financial aspect was left out of the equation altogether. Namely that Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II, where billions continue to be spent despite America’s current troubled fiscal situation.
In fact, just before Romney arrived in Israel, President Barack Obama had signed a law enhancing US-Israel security cooperation, which will add $70 million to the Iron Dome project. Under a Republican government which promises to be more “hawkish” towards Iran and even Russia, one can expect more military spending by the US. So if you fancy going back to the Cold War or perhaps starting a third World War or any other fanatic fantasy then Romney might just be your man. But if you believe that voting for him would help the American economy, think again.