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Obama, Romney & the politics of Israel


As you may have heard, GOP challenger Mitt Romney sets off this week on a trip overseas to visit the UK, Poland and Israel. The trip is meant to highlight the differences between his own foreign policy principles and those of President Obama's.  Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is accusing Romney of taking "one long photo op" and demanding policy specifics from this trip.

President Barack Obama used an overseas trip four years ago to outline the "foundation" of his foreign policy as president, aides to Obama told reporters today, declaring that Mitt Romney needs to use his upcoming trip to do the same.

"He’ll need to prove to the American people that he sees foreign policy issues as worthy of substantive discussion rather than just generality and sound bites in this campaign," said Obama campaign senior adviser Robert Gibbs, accusing Romney of shrouding his foreign policy policy positions in "platitudes" and "secrecy."

"Mitt Romney owes it to the American people to tell them where he stands on these important issues," Gibbs added, referring to Afghanistan policy and other diplomatic questions.

That's a fine demand -- of course the American voter will need to know where Romney stands on issues of foreign policy.  But what's striking about this criticism coming from the Obama campaign is its own disregard for the same issues.  Given the turmoil in the region, it would seem like President Obama would want to send a clear message of America's partnership with Israel, for example.  Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made the trip to America to reaffirm this commitment, yet President Obama's campaign insists that he'll reciprocate... if he's reelected.

“Expect him to visit in a second term should he be reelected," Colin Kahl, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, told reporters on a conference call Monday discussing Romney's trip to the region. "It's not a serious policy difference — it’s basically a distraction," Kahl added about GOP critiques that Obama hasn't visited Israel during his first term. "It doesn’t say anything about the Obama administration’s commitment to Israeli security."

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