Revealed via Secret Tape, Mitt Romney’s POV on Foreign Policy

The secretly taped video of Mitt Romney’s remarks to a small and private audience of campaign donors reveals more than what he thinks of President Obama’s supporters and “47% of Americans.” In the full length, hour-long version of the video that has been released by Mother Jones, Romney did something that he rarely does; he talked about foreign policy.

The secretly taped private fundraiser took place on May 17, 2012, which was before Romney’s trip to England, Israel, and Poland and well before he began to receive intelligence briefings in mid-September. That having been said, the significance of his comments are as relevant today, and are perhaps more so, than they were when he made them.

It has been widely reported that Romney has surrounded himself with foreign policy advisors who had formerly worked in the Bush Administration, and the fingerprints of neoconservative approaches to fear-mongering and international conflict are all over his secretly taped remarks.

The quintessential example of these fingerprints were revealed when Romney was asked by one of his private audience members how his point of view on Iran differs from President Obama’s.

Romney replied:

“A nuclear Iran is an unthinkable outcome, not just for our friends in Israel and our friends in Europe, but also for us. Because Iran is the state sponsor of terror in the world, has Hezbollah now throughout Latin America, Hezbollah with fissile material. If I were Iran, and a crazed fanatic, I’d say let’s get a little fissile material to Hezbollah, have them carry it to Chicago or some other place, and then if anything goes wrong or if America starts acting up, we’ll just say, ‘Guess what, unless you stand down, why we’re gonna let off a dirty bomb.’ This is where we head, where American can be held up and blackmailed by Iran, by the mullahs, by crazy people. So we really don’t have any option but to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon.”

Notice how Romney framed the starting point of this prediction, analysis, and conclusion as to what the United States must do. He said, “If I were Iran, and a crazed fanatic, . . .” This is not empathy. Romney was engaging in enemy-imaging. He was treating the Islamic Republic of Iran like an empty chair.

Joe Cirincioni, a nuclear weapons expert and the President of Ploughshares Fund, debunked Romney’s ‘dirty bomb’ talk in an article for Foreign Policy that was titled, “Dirty Bomb, Muddy Thinking.” Cirincioni explained what a dirty bomb is and how Romney’s attempt to connect Iran’s nuclear program with the likelihood and potentiality of a “dirty bomb” scenario in which Iran would use proxy forces to hold the United States hostage is simply not upheld by facts. Just as he had in reference to President Obama’s supporters and “47% of Americans,” Romney was appealing to political mythology and stereotypes, only this time it was Iran and its “crazy” leadership that he rhetorically targeted.

In response to Romney’s appeal to fear and the myths that have become intertwined with popular perceptions of a “crazy” and suicidal Iranian enemy, Cirincioni recalled in his article how General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had responded in a congressional hearing to Rep. Tim Price’s question of whether General Dempsey stood by his assertion that Iran is “a rational actor.”

General Dempsey replied:

“Yes, I stand by it because the alternative is almost unimaginable. The alternative is that we attribute to them that their actions are so irrational that they have no basis of planning…. Thucydides in the fifth century B.C. said that all strategy is some combination of reaction to fear, honor and interests. And I think all nations act in response to one of those three things, even Iran. The key is to understand how they act and not trivialize their actions by attributing to them some irrationality. I think that’s a very dangerous thing for us to do.”

In his secretly taped remarks, Mitt Romney was engaging in this “very dangerous thing to do.” He not only displayed his smug elitism and lack of respect for the people he seeks to represent and lead as President, but he also displayed how comfortable and well versed he is in the use of sharp-edged stereotypes as political weapons.

Only moments after he had finished describing his nightmare scenario and reference to a hostage crisis, Romney openly admitted that he would exploit the sort of hostage scenario that crippled Jimmy Carter’s chances of reelection in 1980 and catapulted Ronald Reagan into the White House.

“Audience member: If you get the call as president, and you had hostages…Ronald Reagan was able to make a statement, even before he became, was actually sworn in—

Romney: Yeah—

Audience member: the hostages were released—

Romney: on the day of his inauguration, yeah.

Audience member: So my question is, really, how can you sort of duplicate that scenario”

Romney: Ohhhh. [A few chuckles in audience.] I’m going to ask you, how do I duplicate that scenario?

Audience member: I think that had to do with the fact that the Iranians perceived Reagan would do something to really get them out. In other words [unintelligible]…and that’s why I’m suggesting that something that you say over the next few months gets the Iranians to understand that their pursuit of the bomb is something that you would predict and I think that’s something that could possibly resonate very well with American Republican voters.”

Romney responded with the following:

“Romney: I appreciate the idea. I can’t—one of the other things that’s frustrating to me is that at a typical day like this, when I do three or four events like this, the number of foreign policy questions that I get are between zero and one. And the American people are not concentrated at all on China, on Russia, Iran, Iraq. This president’s failure to put in place a status forces agreement allowing 10-20,000 troops to stay in Iraq? Unthinkable! And yet, in that election, in the Jimmy Carter election, the fact that we have hostages in Iran, I mean, that was all we talked about. And we had the two helicopters crash in the desert, I mean that’s—that was—that was the focus, and so him solving that made all the difference in the world. I’m afraid today if you said, ‘We got Iran to agree to stand down a nuclear weapon,’ they’d go hold on. It’s really a, but…by the way, if something of that nature presents itself, I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity.”

With this frightening exchange in mind, let us recall the original question that led Mitt Romney to disparage President Obama’s supporters and “47% of Americans”:

“Audience member: For the last three years, all everybody’s been told is, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.’ How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody you’ve got to take care of yourself?”

Tell us, Mr.  Romney. Amidst national and international crisis, how are you going to take care of yourself?

More than 47% of Americans would like to know.


(These videos and the transcription excerpts in this article are c/o Mother Jones:


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