If Mitt Romney was looking for a way to burnish his credentials among skeptical conservatives, he couldn’t do much better than getting attacked by the Prime Minister of Russia and Obama’s press secretary on the same day.
Romney pounced yesterday after Obama was overheard hinting to Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev that if his boss, President Putin, gave Obama ‘space’ to focus on his re-election campaign then he would, in his second term, have the ‘flexibility’ to deliver a deal on the proposed US missile defence shield that Russia would find agreeable.
Romney told CNN that Russia was “without question our number one geopolitical foe”. He went on: “Russia continues to support Syria, supports Iran, has fought us [over] crippling sanctions we wanted to have the world put in place against Iran. Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage and for this president to be looking for greater flexibility, where he doesn’t have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia, is very very troubling, very alarming. This is a president who is telling us one thing and is doing something else.”
Today both the White House and Medvedev hit back. Medvedev said Romney’s remarks were “very reminiscent of Hollywood and also of a certain phase in Russian-U.S. relations,” and suggested that he and other Republican candidates check their clocks because “it is now 2012, not the mid-1970s”.
Meanwhile Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney called Romney’s remarks “a little inaccurate”, and claimed the relationship that Obama had established with Russia had “born a great deal of fruit, including Russia’s cooperation with China at the United Nations in sanctioning Iran”.
However while Russia, after years of stalling, has supported limited sanctions against the Mullahs, it continues to oppose further measures, including sanctions on Iranian oil exports, that could seriously harm the regime. Carney also failed to acknowledge Russia’s continued thwarting of attempts to end the bloodbath in Syria, the killing or jailing of journalists and political opponents of the Moscow regime, and accusations of massive fraud in the recent presidential election won by Putin.
Romney was quite right to take Obama to task, and to spell out the threat that Russia still poses to the free world. The response of both Medvedev and Carney is an attempt to cover for Obama’s weakness, and Russia’s thuggish regime, by making the story about reckless Republicans re-fighting the Cold War. As I wrote yesterday, expect that narrative to be embraced by the MSM, and as an early example note the headline on ABC’s story about Medvedev’s remarks: ‘Russian President Says Mitt Romney is Stuck in Cold War’ – it’s worded to make Medvedev appear reasonable, and paint Romney as paranoid and out of touch. Buzzfeed has more on the Democrat’s desperate attempts to leverage Obama’s gaffe into an attack on Republicans.
By assuming leadership of the Republican push-back against Obama’s troubling remarks Romney has done his foreign policy props no harm at all, both in terms of the primary campaign and a possible general election battle. Democrat sneers aside, it may be that the US will in fact find itself having to re-fight the Cold War in some form or another – and Obama is clearly not up to the job.