U.N. Secretary-General Appoints CAP’s Podesta To High-Level Anti-Poverty Panel |
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appointed Center for American Progress chair and counselor John Podesta to a High-level Panel to advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals. “I have asked my High-level Panel to prepare a bold yet practical development vision to present to Member States next year,” Mr. Ban said in a news release. “I look forward to the Panel’s recommendations on a global post-2015 agenda with shared responsibilities for all countries and with the fight against poverty and sustainable development at its core,” Mr. Ban said.
In a report released today as part of the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s “Romney U,” CAP’s Lawrence Korb looked at the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s defense and military spending numbers and found that they “don’t add up.” Romney’s plan would mean at least $2 trillion in increased spending over the next decade and as of yet, his campaign can’t explain how he plans to pay for it. Korb’s report charts the numbers:
Romney “promotes this approach while simultaneously promising to cut taxes and balance the budget, which is pure intellectual dishonesty,” Korb writes. “By exploding the deficit or gutting domestic programs, Gov. Romney’s plan would compromise our national security.”
Interestingly, Romney’s father George received a far different reception when he ran for president forty-five years earlier and traveled to Israel in December of 1967. Like his son Mitt, George embarked on an international trip to bolster his foreign policy credentials, visiting France, Great Britain, West Germany, Poland, The Soviet Union, Israel, Jordan, Thailand, South Vietnam, Indonesia, and Singapore.
George Romney spent two days visiting Jerusalem and held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and other government officials, describing his conversations to reporters as “significant.” Then, he crossed over to Jordan and visited a refugee camp, demonstrating that he was far more willing to consider the challenges facing the Palestinian people on his trip abroad. “I have come here to listen, to look and to learn,” he was quoted as saying in the New York Times on December 22, 1967:
As Hannah Gross at the Daily Beast said of Mitt Romney, “If Romney hopes to be viewed as a fair broker of peace between Israelis and Palestinians—a role he must play if he wants to establish a two-state solution—virtually ignoring Palestinians isn’t a strong first step.”
In the wake of yet another controversial stop on his campaign trip abroad, a host of international media criticized Mitt Romney’s positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as damaging to prospects for reviving the stalled peace process.
Here’s a round-up of what some of the international media is saying about Romney’s trip to Jerusalem:
GERMANY: In an opinion piece for the centrist Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s biggest daily, Christian Wernicke wrote:
The trip to Israel may help Romney in the short term. In the long term, however, the Republican has done damage: The Middle East needs the United States as mediator. As such, the would-be president has already disqualified himself.
FRANCE: The French newspaper Le Monde noted that Romney broke with a policy upheld by successive U.S. governments for more than 60 years by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel:
(H)e delivered a speech declaring himself “very moved” to find himself Jerusalem, “the capital of Israel.”
This while the U.S. does not officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Their embassy, like those of virtually all the countries represented in Israel, is in Tel Aviv.
Now the next occasion of putting his foot in his mouth: on Sunday, the Republican called Jerusalem the “capital of Israel.”
UNITED KINGDOM: In a in opinion column for the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times of London, Hugo Rifkind wrote:
Mr. Romney’s behavior in Israel is… a throwback to a time when U.S. foreign policy considered the bulk of the Middle East to be irredeemably horrible; a great morass of messy “other” with which grown-up engagement was close to impossible. As a response to the patchwork of petty tyranny that the region used to be, this made some sense. Today, it makes none at all.
Despite what Mr. Romney says, all American presidents have been pro-Israel, including Mr. Obama. But that doesn’t mean subcontracting American policy to Israeli leaders or donors. [... Romney's] policies would complicate America’s ability to act as a broker in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
How’s Romney handling the coverage given to him by the world’s media? Not well. Before leaving Poland to travel back Stateside, Romney told Fox News he blamed the media for all his stumbling blocks abroad.
Since Mitt Romney emerged from the GOP presidential primary fight as the last candidate standing, the former Massachusetts governor has struggledto differentiate his Iran policy (or any foreign policy) from President Obama’s. That changed this weekend when a top adviser said Romney would not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons “capability” and that a President Romney would support an Israeli attack on Iran.
But yesterday, another top Romney adviser Richard Williamson went a bit further. Pressed by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien to offer a substantive difference between Romney’s and Obama’s Iran policies, Williamson at first struggled but ultimately said that the military option should be “seriously considered” if Iran “gets to nuclear breakout”:
O’BRIEN: So, are you telling me that Governor Romney would be willing to bomb Iran if it looks like they’re getting nuclear weapons? That they would whether it’s with or without Israel, bomb Iran to end that — they cross the red line, bomb Iran?
WILLIAMSON: I’m saying two things. First, on the sanctions, it’s not just talking abstractly about sanctions. This administration has allowed Moscow and Beijing to determine what sanctions we can put in force. Governor Romney has made clear he’s going to put tough sanctions in force for the coalition and not play “Mother, may I” with the U.N. Security Council.
Second, that Tehran should know that Governor Romney is committed to work everything possible diplomatically to avoid having to use force. But if it gets to nuclear breakout, military options are on the table and have to be seriously considered.
Watch the interview (conversation quoted above begins at 3:02):
While it’s unclear what Williamson means by “breakout,” that threshold by some definitions is lower than nuclear weapons capability. “Breakout” could mean the decision to acquire and action on acquiring all the necessary components for a bomb (such as enriching low-enriched uranium to a higher purity), while “capability,” what Romney’s adviser previously referred to last weekend, could be described as actually obtaning all the necessary components after the decision to breakout.
As this blog has previous noted, While Obama has said an Iranian nuclear weapon is “unacceptable,” declaring a nuclear “capability” an American “red line” that would trigger war sets a lower threshold for U.S. military involvement. The CIA has laid out a specific definition, but again, the “nuclear capability” language is a complex issue. The word “capability” has a special meaning in the non-proliferation context, but it’s not always clear exactly what. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), one of the Senate’s most vociferous Iran hawks, said this year, “I guess everybody will determine for themselves what that means.” Iran hawks in Congress pushed a bill this year to shift the official U.S. “red line” to a nuclear “capability.”
In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama traveled to Europe and was greeted by hundreds of thousands of supporters and excitedforeign leaders at almosteverystopalong his tour. Pundits across the board labeled the trip a success for the campaign, so it’s understandable why, four years later, candidate Mitt Romney thought it would be a good idea to do an overseas trip of his own.
Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan, though. During his first stop in London, Romney enraged an entire country by questioning Great Britain’s readiness to host the olympics, which began the day he arrived. The notoriously merciless UK media flambéed Romney with big headlines and scathing editorials.
Romney then moved on to Israel, where he explained to a room full of wealthy donors why Palestinians were generally poorer than Israelis due to their inferior “culture.” Israeli and Arab press alike were incensed, calling the remark racist (a charge the Romney campaign vigorously denies.)
And then today in Poland, as reporters who had traveled a cumulative 10,000 miles with the campaign faced their sixth day without having an opportunity to ask a single question to the candidate, a Romney campaign spokesman told a restless gaggle to “kiss my ass” when they tried to shout their questions at Romney as he left Pilsudski Square in Warsaw.
A Mitt Romney spokesman told reporters to “kiss my ass” when they tried to ask the candidate questions about his trip abroad on Tuesday.
Seemingly without irony, traveling press secretary Rick Gorka told reporters to “show some respect” and to “shove it” because they were trying to get Romney to answer questions about his numerousgaffesabroad while at the Polish tomb of the unknown.
Reporters have had virtually no access to the candidate during his three-country tour. When they frustratedly told Gorka “we haven’t had another chance to ask him questions.” Gorka responded, “kiss my ass.” CNN has the video:
While Romney has granted interviews to numerous TV stations in the US, as well as some foreign media, the campaign has blocked the traveling press pool from interacting with the candidate in unstructured settings, as CNN’s Jim Acosta explained this morning. Reporters who flew to England, Israel, and Poland with the candidate have only been able to ask a total of three questions — all on the first day.
Gorka has since apologized for his comments, and Romney adviser Stuart Stevens said of the trip “I think it was a great success.”
Between annoying the British and alienating the Palestinians, Mitt Romney seems to have found trouble everywhere he went on his overseas campaign trip. Now, the Polish trade union Solidarity, once led by Romney’s host in Poland Lech Wałęsa, disavowed the GOP presidential hopeful because of his anti-union politics.
Romney went to Gdańsk, Poland to meet with Wałęsa, who in 1980, led a workers’ strike in the Gdańsk Shipyard and helped create the Solidarity trade union. Solidarity became a thorn in the side of the Soviet-backed government, and Wałęsa eventually became a Nobel laureate and the first president of a free Poland. Wałęsa was reportedly miffed when Obama wouldn’t grant him a private greeting, and invited Romney for a visit.
Regretfully, we were informed by our friends from the American headquarters of (trade union federation) AFL-CIO, which represents more than 12 million employees … that Mitt Romney supported attacks on trade unions and employees’ rights.
Solidarity was not involved in organizing Romney’s meeting with Wałęsa and did not invite him to visit Poland.
– Mitt Romney tried to clarify his statement last March that Russia is America’s “number one geopolitical foe” on CNN yesterday. “I’m talking about most of the United Nations and actions of a geopolitical nature, Russia is the number one adversary in that regard,” he said. “That doesn’t make them an enemy. It doesn’t make them a combatant. They don’t represent the number one national security threat.”
– Obama administration officials say that the threat of defense industry layoffs is overblown and that Republicans are playing up the possibility rather than trying to head it off. The Labor Department said Monday that it would be “inappropriate” for contractors to send out large-scale dismissal notices, because it is unclear whether the federal cuts will occur and how they would be carried out.
– House and Senate lawmakers agreed on a bill yesterday that moves the U.S. closer to imposing more sanctions on Iran. The bill includes measures to curb Iran’s oil business and crackdowns on human rights.
– Defense Secretary Leon Panetta sent a tacit message to Israeli leaders on Monday, urging that diplomacy and economic pressure be given more time to work before they move ahead with any military strike on Iran.
– Turkey has sent more troops and military equipment to the Syrian border to shore up its defense there. Meanwhile, Arab and Muslim men from Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Belgium and even the U.S. have traveled to Syria to join the Free Syrian Army forces.