In the late 1940s, Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg famously said that “politics stops at the water’s edge.” In recent years, adherence to the axiom has fallen by the wayside. In 2005, President Clinton criticized the sitting Bush administration in a Dubai speech. And President Obama delivered a 2008 speech to cheering throngs in Berlin during a presidential race. But Obama’s Berlin speech focused on policy issues and avoided criticizing his Republican opponent Sen. John McCain (AZ) or the waning Bush administration.
This weekend, however, the Romney campaign took politics overseas in a much more explicit fashion: dispatching two advisers to foreign publications amid an established one-on-one presidential race to heavily criticize President Obama by name and build their case that Mitt Romney should be president.
In one of the salvos against President Obama, Romney economic adviser Glenn Hubbard took to the pages of the German business magazine Handelsblatt to sharply criticize the administration’s stance on the European fiscal crisis. According to a translated portions of the article in the New York Times, Hubbard lambasted Obama’s “ignorance of the causes of the crisis and of a growth trend in the future,” calling the president “unwise.” After taking the president to task by name, Hubbard contrasted him with Romney:
Mitt Romney, Obama’s Republican opponent, understands this very well and advises a gradual fiscal consolidation for the U.S.: structural reform to stimulate growth.
According to the Times, the Obama campaign already took a shot at Hubbard’s op-ed:
In a foreign news outlet, Governor Romney’s top economic adviser both discouraged essential steps that need to be taken to promote economic recovery and attempted to undermine America’s foreign policy abroad.
The second overseas assault on President Obama came from Romney foreign policy adviser Amb. Richard Williamson. Speaking to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Williamson zeroed in on Obama’s Iran and Israel policies. “Under Barack Obama, our national security capabilities have decreased,” he said, blasting “President Obama’s feckless and ineffective leadership.” He went on:
What the Governor has tried to make clear is that one of the unfortunate results of the Obama foreign policy is our friends and allies, including Great Britain, Israel and others, have not had their interests taken into account, have not been consulted closely, and there isn’t a constructive working relationship.
The claims are baseless. Indeed, Romney and his advisers are the ones who last month publicly trashed Great Britain, its leaders, and other European allies. And Williamson’s claim that “there isn’t a constructive working relationship” with Israel belie a reality where Israeli leaders like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu note that Obama “rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented,” and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Obama is an “extremely strong supporter of Israel in regard to its security” and that no one should “raise any question mark about the devotion of this president to the security of Israel.”
With direct political attacks being waged overseas, the 1940s and Vandenberg are clearly in the rearview. But perhaps at least the Romney campaign could do America — and the world — a favor by maintaining a modicum of honesty in their attacks on Obama launched from overseas.
ThinkProgress Economy editor Pat Garofalo notes that Hubbard “is advocating for a doubling down on austerity that has simply made Europe’s economic situation worse.”