So what does Romney do tonight? Do an etch a sketch and alienate his neocon supporters or stay to the right and scare off 72% of the Independents, 65% of the Democrats and 53% of the Republicans?Well he did do a complete Etch A Sketch but what I should have anticipated was his neocon masters would assume he was lying.
Juan Cole documents a few of Romney's Etch A Sketch Moments:
On Israel-PalestineRomney said Monday,Will it work? Only time will tell!
But in a secretly videotaped fundraiser in Boca Raton last May, Romney had said about the Israel-Palestine conflict:
“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….and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”So in public Romney is criticizing Obama for lack of progress in the peace process, without mentioning that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has in the past actually boasted about derailing the Oslo peace accords. But in private he admitted that likely under these circumstances, no progress is likely, and that the ball would have to be kicked down the field.
Romney on Monday said
“Well, we’re going to be finished by 2014. And when I’m president, we’ll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014. The commanders and the generals there are on track to do so. We’ve seen progress over the past several years. The surge has been successful, and the training program is proceeding apace.”Although Romney had earlier generally given an impression of concurring with the 2014 withdrawal date, he had earlier hedged it by saying:
“I will evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders . . .”
So before, he implied that Obama was riding roughshod over the Joint Chiefs of Staff in high-handedly making Afghanistan policy, whereas he, Romney would defer to them. Now he has withdrawn that objection, acknowledging that the Pentagon is on board with this withdrawal timetable.
Jeffery Goldberg asks a question:
Did the 'Neocon Puppet Masters' Get Outflanked by Romney?
The answer is Goldberg is not sure.
But this wasn't a debate: It was a moment for Obama to show himself to be all commander-in-chiefy, and for Romney to show himself to be sane, responsible and uninterested in foreign entanglements (Iran, of course, being the bipartisan exception). My assumption is that the so-called neoconservatives close to Romney didn't lose an argument about how to approach these issues, my assumption is that these people read polls, too, and know that Americans profess to be tired of the Middle East, and that therefore, it is best, two weeks before the election, not to recommend to their candidate that he push for greater involvement in the Syrian crisis, for example. Neocons, like everyone else in politics, are interested in winning.
Does this mean that Romney, if he wins the White House, will shed his moderate cloak and embrace the agenda of the interventionists? Maybe, maybe not. I tend to think of him as more of a pragmatist than an interventionist. I'm not suggesting that he was hiding anything last night. I'm suggesting only that he accentuated his non-interventionist impulses, and I'm also suggesting that his neoconservative advisers happily went along with this less muscular approach.