WASHINGTON -- My colleagues in the press have been obsessing over Mitt Romney's money. And, yes, I suppose that $250 million is a lot to have for a man who apparently can't afford an extra car to carry his dog. But the predominant criticism -- that "Mittens," as they call him on the press bus, can't "feel our pain" because of his money -- is about as insipid as it gets.
We don't need a president to feel our pain. When I'm in pain, I'll go to a friend, to a psychiatrist or to a doctor. When we need some leadership, I'll look for someone who can RELIEVE the nation's pain.
Money? Heritage? Upper class? Hey, I'll take FDR, or JFK, or Teddy Roosevelt, or Father Bush any day in place of the Andrew Johnsons of our history! It seems to me that the only reason we hear incessant talk about Romney's wealth is that too many of our people are either jealous of it or feel inferior in the face of it.
It is only relatively true that a well-educated girl or boy will turn out to be a better president than an uneducated one -- but it is no way certain. What is really needed is a certain common sense, blended with a naturally critical intelligence and an ability to judge when one's people are ready for changes in their politics.
Mitt Romney has many of those characteristics. The main one is that he knows how to DO things (witness his governorship of Massachusetts, his rescue of the Utah Olympics, his decision-making on Wall Street), an ability that President Obama seems to lack. As well, he is a charming man, a good family man and a generous one as well, giving 10 percent to his Mormon church and still more to charity. Keeping these things in mind, one has to wonder what exactly it is that the press wants in a candidate?
Having said that, I hasten to add an important demurrer. Romney would probably be a good enough domestic president, even given the Republicans' lack of concern for the poor. But from all the indicators, he would be a disastrous foreign policy president -- and those indicators are crucial!
One has to be amused that in every presidential election, the focus is at least 90 percent on domestic policies. But the reality is that, usually by the end of the first term, the presidency is overwhelmed by foreign policy disasters. Think JFK with Cuba and the Bay of Pigs. Think LBJ with Vietnam. Think George W. with Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama, we don't know -- yet.
In fact, when we do talk now about the deficit, about defeat, about decline, you can trace many of the factors back to Vietnam and the foolish waste of men and wealth in that steamy backwater. But watch, fellow Americans, Mitt Romney would give us more Vietnams -- his entire foreign policy consists of American strength at any price.
In South Carolina this spring, speaking of our role in Afghanistan, he assured his audience of how tough he would be, saying, "Of course, you take out our enemies, wherever they are. (The Taliban) declared war on us. We go anywhere they are, and we kill them."
Romney has said over and over again that he would be the first to fight with Iran, if it should move toward nuclear weapons. American power -- all-out American power -- is his emotional bumper sticker.
Interestingly enough -- and frightening to those for whom the Israeli far right is itself frightening -- Romney met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu at a conference several years ago and, according to a lengthy article in The Washington Post, became a kind of intellectual mate, following his influence in many sectors. Since Bibi is the father of Jewish settlements, a man who fears peace with the Palestinians and who is ready to attack Iran, no matter what, this friendship could indeed be a dangerous one for both America and Israel.
In a complicated world in which America is hated in many Islamic countries and is the target of radical Islamic organizations from Iran, to Lebanon, to Saudi Arabia, to Yemen and beyond, Romney has declared unequivocally that it is Russia that is our major enemy. In a CNN interview, the candidate said, to great notice, "Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world's worst actors."
One has to wonder exactly where these ideas come from. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has not been strong enough to be a major enemy to virtually anyone. Besides, it is clear that they want to do business with us. We can surely deal with them.
It seems American citizens have missed the fact that many of George W.'s hard-line, neoconservative advisers -- the same ones who gave us the Iraq war with no weapons of mass destruction and the Afghan war with no end -- are now Romney's advisers.
They include, for instance, Robert Kagan, hard-line founder of the Project for a New American Century; Eliot Cohen, who agitated for the invasions as early as 2002; and several former advisers to L. Paul Bremer, the disastrous U.S. "viceroy" in charge of Iraqi authorities in the first months after the invasion.
By all accounts, what Americans can expect from a Romney presidency in foreign policy is a continuation of the George W. Bush policies -- along with many of the same shining faces. Isn't it great in life when we get the opportunity to repeat our mistakes yet another time?