Update: You can watch the full video of Mitt Romney’s speech here.
On Monday, liberal outlet Mother Jones captured headlines with the release of undercover video footage showing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney candidly discussing a variety of issues during a private fundraiser. While some on the Left have seized upon his statements as potentially embarrassing, the clips — and the context they’re presented in — offer a more complicated picture. This morning, yet another leaked video that shows Romney speaking about Israel and Palestine at the same event is adding fuel to the controversy, but is the angst truly warranted?
Interestingly, rather than releasing the full video of the fundraiser, an event that was held on May 17 at the home of private equity manager Marc Leder in Boca Raton, Florida, Mother Jones (an outlet known for having a liberal slant) has opted to put the clips out in segments. This process may, as is often the case when this tactic is used, be hinged upon a plan to gain momentum for the outlet, while also exposing Romney’s comments to additional scrutiny and damage.
Thus, on Tuesday morning, Mother Jones released yet another video — it features clips that focus upon Romney’s views on Obama’s foreign policy, issues surrounding Israel and Palestine and the ongoing Iranian nuclear threat.
The most talked about footage shows Romney speaking about the ongoing tensions in the Middle East. While he admits being divided about how the issue of a two-state solution should be handled, Mother Jones presents the clip in a very singular, albeit questionable, way.
“He discussed various foreign policy positions, sharing views that he does not express in public, including his belief that peace in the Middle East is not possible and a Palestinian state is not feasible,” Mother Jones wrote on Tuesday.
The outlet explained that Romney’s comments about the situation in the Middle East came after someone at the dinner asked how the “Palestinian problem” could be solved. Mother Jones framed the candidate’s response as follows: “Romney immediately launched into a detailed reply, asserting that the Palestinians have ‘no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.'”
But this isn’t exactly how the statements were uttered. While the news outlet does note that Romney claimed “there was another perspective on this knotty matter” (Mother Jones’ words, not Romney’s), his actual statement was much more nuanced than he is being given credit for.
Here’s a portion of a transcript of the candidate’s words (emphasis added):
“I’m torn by two perspectives in this regard. One is the one which I’ve had for some time, which is that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish. Now why do I say that? Some might say, well, let’s let the Palestinians have the West Bank, and have security, and set up a separate nation for the Palestinians. And then come a couple of thorny questions.”
Notice that Romney said that he is personally torn between two perspectives. This is very different from claiming that he has a solid perspective and that an opposing idea exists somewhere in the periphery. Now, to give credit to his liberal detractors, Romney did spend a great deal of time highlighting this first perspective, wondering if it would be best to allow the stalemate between Palestine and Israel to continue in an effort to avoid bigger issues associated with a two-state solution.
However, Romney did, at one point, mention the second perspective that he is, via his own words, “torn by.” He said (emphasis added):
“On the other hand, I got a call from a former secretary of state. I won’t mention which one it was, but this individual said to me, you know, I think there’s a prospect for a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis after the Palestinian elections. I said, “Really?” And, you know, his answer was, “Yes, I think there’s some prospect.” And I didn’t delve into it.”
Oddly, the clip ends there. Readers and viewers don’t have the opportunity to see what was said next, although Mother Jones notes that Romney purportedly cautioned against putting pressure on Israel, saying, “The idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world.”
Mother Jones attempted to draw a distinction between his past words, writing:
In public, Romney has not declared the peace process pointless or dismissed the two-state solution. In July, when the Israeli newspaper Haaretz asked Romney if he supports a two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state, he replied, “I believe in a two-state solution which suggests there will be two states, including a Jewish state.” Yet Romney’s remarks to these funders—this was one of his longest answers at the fundraiser—suggest he might be hiding his true beliefs regarding Israel and the peace process and that on this subject he is out of sync with the predominant view in foreign policy circles that has existed for decades.
Watch the video, below:
The outlet also released a clip showing Romney, during the same event, speaking out against Iran and warning of the nation’s potential for gaining nuclear weapons. Here’s a transcript of his words:
“If I were Iran, if I were Iran—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 America starts acting up, we’ll just say, “Guess what? Unless you stand down, why, we’re going to let off a dirty bomb.” I mean this is where we have—where America could 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.”
In a third clip, Romney speaks out against Obama’s foreign policy objectives, lambasting the president as he has done during other more public events in the past:
As far as the Israel and Palestine comments go, National Journal reported that the video would be “potentially embarrassing” for Romney. Nowhere does the outlet mention, though, that the Republican contender had stated that he is “torn” between two policy objectives.
The first set of clips that were released showed Romney commenting that 47 percent of Americans will vote for Obama, because they believe in entitlements. He also joked that his electoral chances would improve if he were Latino and that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth (the full comment on this latter point provides a better framing for this latter statement as well).
On Monday evening, Romney responded to the initial clips during a press conference.
“Well, you know, it’s not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I’m speaking off-the-cuff in response to a question, and I’m sure I could state it more clearly and in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that,” he said. “And so I’m sure I’ll point that out as time goes on, but we don’t even have the question given in the snippet there, nor the whole response, and I hope the person who has the video will put out the full material.”