First Mitt Romney tried to get the Obama campaign to stop talking about Romney’s error in judgment on entering Pakistan to get bin Laden. Then he knuckled under, cried uncle, and praised the president for killing him. Now Romney is explaining himself by saying he only meant that then-Sen. Obama shouldn’t have made his position on a major foreign policy matter clear to the public:
“I said that very clearly in the response that I made, but that I thought — and many people believed as I did — that it was naive on the part of the president at that time, the candidate, to say he would go in to Pakistan. It was a, if you will, fragile and flammable time in Pakistan and I thought it was a mistake of him … to announce that he would do this.”
He’s alluding to his support for former Pakistani President Musharraff:
We do not go out and say to a nation which is working with us, where we have collaborated and they are our friend and we’re trying to support Musharraf and strengthen him and his nation, that instead that we intend to go in there and potentially bring out a unilateral attack.
This is another dumb foreign policy blunder on Romney’s part. Especially considering what we have seen take place in Pakistan since 2007.
Musharraf, the guy whom Romney said we should support, was subsequently run out of the country under an oncoming impeachment for suspicion of assassinating Benazir Bhutto and other violations of Pakistan’s constitution. He is now exiled in London. There is an outstanding warrant for his arrest that Pakistan has forwarded to Interpol.
What Romney is saying is that President Obama shouldn’t have announced he would strike unilaterally into Pakistan because it would have damaged relations with Musharraf. In the political turmoil swirling in Pakistan at that time, his decision was to side with the guy that was subsequently run out of the country and remains a fugitive on the lam.
By contrast, what did candidate Obama say about Musharraf at that time?
Musharraf resigned on Aug. 18, 2008, rather than face imminent impeachment proceedings, and two days later Sen. Barack Obama issued a bit of an I-told-you-so.
“I argued for years that we need to move from a ‘Musharraf policy’ to a ‘Pakistan policy,’” Obama said in a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention on Aug. 19. “We must move beyond an alliance built on mere convenience or a relationship with one man. Now, with President Musharraf’s resignation, we have the opportunity to do just that. That’s why I’ve co-sponsored a bill to triple nonmilitary aid to the Pakistani people, while ensuring that the military assistance we do provide is used to take the fight to the Taliban and al-Qaida in the tribal regions of Pakistan.”
In summary, Romney says we shouldn’t have said out loud we would go after Osama bin Laden with or without Pakistan’s permission because doing so would hurt Musharraff. But considering how things played out with Musharraff, President Obama’s comments were actually exactly the thing that should have been said under Romney’s own logic. President Obama insisted on being neutral on Pakistan’s internal politics while Romney supported propping up a doomed dictator.
Romney’s clarification of his comments about entering Pakistan only serves to highlight how wrong his judgment was on an important foreign policy matter.