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Romney Campaign Warns Of Soviet Threat To Czechoslovakia

The Romney campaign seems to be unaware that the Cold War ended in 1991, and Czechoslovakia hasn’t existed since 1993:

The Romney campaign has been accused of being stuck in the 1950s. But it also seems mired in the 1980s — it again invoked Cold War threats on Thursday, as it tried to attack the Obama administration on foreign policy.

Romney and his surrogates have revealed an ongoing Cold War fixation. Former Reagan Navy Secretary John Lehman and former Bush administration Ambassador Pierre Prosper, on Thursday derailed Romney messaging in a conference call with reporters by raising the specter of the “Soviet Union” and slamming Obama for not protecting Czechoslovakia — a country that was peacefully dissolved in 1993 and now exists as the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Obama is “withdrawing from leading the free world in maintaining stability around the world,” Lehman said. “What Obama calls ‘leading from behind.'”

One of the worst examples, according to Lehman, is happening at the top of the world.

We’re seeing the Soviets pushing into the Arctic with no response from us. In fact, the only response is to announce the early retirement of the last remaining icebreaker.”

Prosper warned Obama was abandoning America’s eastern European allies — some of which haven’t existed for decades.

“You know, Russia is another example where we give and Russia gets and we get nothing in return,” Prosper said. “The United States abandoned its missile defense sites in Poland and Czechoslovakia, yet Russia does nothing but obstruct us, or efforts in Iran and Syria.”

The call was meant as a prebuttal to Vice President Biden’s foreign policy speech in New York Thursday, where he warned that Romney wants to return to a Bush-era foreign policy.

“He acts like he thinks the Cold War’s still on,” Biden said this month. “I don’t know where he’s been.”

Romney has not done much to burst that rhetorical balloon. After Biden’s remarks, Romney condemned Obama, but not without confusing modern-day Russia with the nation that came before it.

“Obama ‘entered into an agreement with the Soviets, excuse me, with Russia‘ in the nuclear arms START treaty that effectively required the United States to reduce its weapons stockpile while allowing Russia to increase its stockpile,” Romney said on April 20.

Now, does anyone really think that either Romney or his campaign really doesn’t know that the Cold War is over, or that Czechoslovakia dissolved peacefully in 1993?  While there may be some on the right who think that this scene from The Simpsons is a documentary, I certainly don’t think that the Romney foreign policy team is quite that uninformed. It strikes me that rhetoric of this type serves a very direct, deliberate purpose and that it’s been part of a theme among hard-core conservatives for years now. in some cases dating back to before President Obama even took office. There’s no denying that Russia is a significant power that has its own national interests, and that it acts in a manner to protect those interests that often are not compatible with our own. To compare that, however, to a nation that was, at least rhetorically, devoted to the worldwide spread of Communism is patently silly and simplistic. Then again, silly and simplistic seems to play pretty well when it comes to foreign policy among the masses on the right.

When it comes to nations such as Russia, and indeed a large part of any international issue that involves significant interaction between the United States and Russia or the United States and China, the same neoconservatives who led us into a foolish war in Iraq still seem to view the war through an outdated Cold War prism to such an extent that many of them don’t see any real difference between the Russian Federation and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This is despite the differences, in both practical terms and in terms of the policies that each nation pursues.  Rather than talking about the often subtle and sometimes significant differences between our relationship with the USSR and our relationship with Russia (the most significant being the fact that neither side has their nuclear missiles on hair-trigger alert), it’s far easier to reach back in time to the old and familiar and go for a little Soviet fear mongering.  This also seems to be a view that at least some portion of the GOP base shares, especially perhaps those for whom the Cold War is more than just a distant, fading memory. The clear impression that is created when one fails to draw distinctions between Russia and the USSR is that one wishes to create the impression that, in terms of American national interests and foreign policy, there is no real distinction between the two. As false as that statement might be in reality, it appears to be working if one judges based solely on the memes that are prevalent on the right when it comes to Russia.

So, no I don’t think that the Romney campaign is dumb enough to think the USSR still exists. I also don’t think, however, that this is just a simple slip of the tongue. They’re sending a message here, and it’s mostly to the GOP base.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Console says:

    Nah, sometimes people really are that stupid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  2. JWF says:

    Czechosovakia … Czechosovaka. How many ways can Doug Failaconis misspell Czechoslovakia?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11

  3. Hey Norm says:

    “…Then again, silly and simplistic seems to play pretty well when it comes to foreign policy among the masses on the right…”

    The truest sentence Doug has ever typed.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  4. Hey Norm says:

    “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

    Ernest Hemingway

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. @JWF:

    I’m in awe to meet someone who has never made a mistake in their life.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  6. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Apparently the country has been non-existent for so long, its been removed from spellcheck! ;-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  7. mantis says:

    I love Treason Season.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  8. @Gromitt Gunn:

    Or I didn’t have enough coffee this morning

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. Davebo says:

    Look, there are what? Fifty or so members of the Communist party in Congress?

    They’d like you to think the Soviet Union is defunct!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  10. mantis says:

    One of the worst examples, according to Lehman, is happening at the top of the world.

    We’re seeing the Soviets pushing into the Arctic with no response from us.

    Worst examples of what? The Russians are drilling for oil in the Russian Arctic (with Exxon Mobil, among others). So what? Oh right, they want to make this sound like the Russians will be invading us by traversing the North Pole and coming through Canada or something. Not sure why they would pick that route. They can see Alaska from their houses!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  11. al-Ameda says:

    Everytime I think that Mitt can’t possibly become more lame and phony … he does.

    I’m surprised he didn’t mention the ongoing threat that Cuba presents to Grenada.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  12. Scott says:

    What we have found out over the last few decades is how weak some of our adversaries really are. The Soviet Union crumbled pretty readily. So did Iraq. We really are the one true superpower. However, it is not in the interest of many in this country to be realistic about the world. Beating the drums (especially with respect to Iran) and sowing fear keeps the money flowing to defense. In the meantime, asymmetric warfare on the part of transnational groups is literally bleeding our military and burning our treasury at little relative cost to themselves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  13. Hey Norm says:

    “…In fact, the only response is to announce the early retirement of the last remaining icebreaker…”

    Um…with AGW icebreakers will no longer be necessary. So we have that going for us…which is nice.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jul/14/global-warming-tanker-route

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. JWF says:

    @Doug Mataconis: @Doug Mataconis: We’ve met before?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  15. george says:

    What console said – sometimes people really are that stupid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Or you’re a – waith for it! – communist, seeking to undermine the country through mispelling its name until its proud people fall under the spell of relativism and Bolshevism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  17. Peacewood says:

    I don’t know what you guys are on about! Romney’s campaign is completely up-to-date and dealing with the present reality of international politics.

    That reminds me — have you guys heard of this new band called INXS? They’re totally cool.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  18. @Peacewood:

    And hey, have you seen Bill Cosby’s new show where he plays a father who’s a doctor married to a lawyer?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. Hey Norm says:

    That new Cosbyshow is so left wing.
    Conservatives prefer the classics…Like Father Knows Best.

    “…Ward…you were pretty hard on the Beaver last night…”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. Scott says:

    @Scott: I also cannot decide whether these guys are naive and clueless or cynical and deceitful. Why are the neocons not considered totally discredited on foreign policy?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. anjin-san says:

    Why are the neocons not considered totally discredited on foreign policy?

    Well, they are, outside of the 27% pocket universe…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  22. Hey Norm says:

    @ Scott…
    Forget discredited…how about just a little humility? How about just enough self-awareness to think that;

    “…Hey, you know, we f’ed up. Maybe we should sit down and listen to some other viewpoints. And maybe together we can figure out how to approach these really complex issues and situations…”

    Of course the same approach would do Republicans well on the economy.
    Yeah…I know…never going to happen.
    But hey…I can dream can’t I?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  23. anjin-san says:

    With Bin Laden dead and Al-Qaeda decimated, we are badly in need of more enemies to be frightened of. “Bears in the woods” is pretty predictable stuff. As we get further into campaign season, I fully expect to hear about the Duchy of Grand Fenwick rearing its head and entering our airspace.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Gustopher says:

    Assuming that it wasn’t stupidity, do the Russians like being referred to as the Soviets by someone who is a major contender for the Presidency? Given that they had that little revolution thingy, one might think not.

    No one gives a crap about the Czechs and the Slovaks getting upset, so I’ll give him a pass on that, but do we really want a President who will insult one of the largest and most influential countries on the planet for no particular reason?

    So, either staggering stupidity, or staggeringly bad judgement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  25. James in LA says:

    Wow. Talkaboutcher failures to keep up. Stupidity in this case seems to be the reaction to insisting the clock never ticked past a certain date, which seems to as early as 1812, but never later than 1960-something. World history somehow stopped in the early 1970s. Add to it that govt. is still run by old men raised in the Age of Paper who are terrified of the internet, and still insist on campaigning using the time-tested method of the White Lie.

    Because in 1960-something, the internet has not been invented. What, does Romney think there are no cameras recording his taking every policy position there is to take?

    When you live a life based on belief, denial comes as easy as breathing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  26. PJ says:

    I mean even the people remaking Red Dawn has moved away from the Soviet Union as the enemy… Now it’s North Korea instead, (well actually, it was China, but that changed in post processing to maintain access to China’s box office… I guess warning us all about the impeding Chinese invasion isn’t as important as all that Chinese cash…)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  27. Hey Norm says:

    @ Anjin-san…
    I can see Fenwick from my house!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Ob Kids in the Hall:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83tnWFojtcY

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. anjin-san says:

    @Hey Norm

    There are sleeper cells of enemy mice all over America. The lib media is covering it up. I have heard reports that the Obama kids keep mice as pets…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. Hey Norm says:

    The liberal media gave the mice to the Obama girls…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. gVOR08 says:

    With Republican politicians, one is always asking, ‘Is he that dumb, or does he just think his audience is that dumb.’ Looks like Doug’s answer is that it’s the audience. Probably true.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  32. anjin-san says:

    @ Hey Norm

    The black mice in the White House are receiving preferential treatment over the white mice. Apparently they have “special rights”…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. legion says:

    @gVOR08: Like I’ve said before – the answer can always be “and”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  34. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I don’t think this is a dog whistle for the erstwhile GOP “base.” First off, they’re not that slick. More likely it’s simply a case of a couple of guys who were in the primes in the 1980’s and whose collective vernacular is based upon habit. The guy who served as Reagan’s Navy Secretary, for example, probably has said the word “Soviets” so many thousands upon thousands of times in his life that he just can’t help himself. Second, Team Romney is smart enough to know that over 90% of all self-identified Republicans automatically will be voting for Romney this November and that the remainder either don’t really care about foreign policy (evangelical Christians) or are not really Republicans (Jeffords, Bloomberg and Chafee types).

    As for the larger issue — why is Team Romney drawing these particular distinctions with Obama’s record? — that’s a function of demographics and the electoral map. Believe it or not there actually is a method to what might at first glance appear to be a touch of madness.

    Pennsylvania, for example, is an important swing state in which vast numbers of Eastern European immigrants and their descendents reside. Poles. Lithuanians. Hungarians. Croats. Serbs. Slovaks. Etc. Tons of them live in Western PA, especially in the suburbs and exurbs of Pittsburgh. Those people care about such items as missile defense systems in Eastern Europe. They care about any appearance of weakness towards Russia. They also vote.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  35. If you can just go with the feeling of “the Soviet threat,” you might be a conservative. If you stop to recall what you know about history … you might be disqualified.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  36. (Remember, it’s meant to juice the amygdala. It does not need to pass through the prefrontal cortex on its way there.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  37. Hey Norm says:

    “…not really Republicans (Jeffords, Bloomberg and Chafee types)…”

    In other words, moderates who refused to rush to the extreme like lemmings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. anjin-san says:

    @ PJ

    I did not know there was a Red Dawn remake on the way. A mashup of Red Dawn & Footloose remakes might be pretty entertaining – or how about a “Footloose 2″ where Ren is living in Pyongyang?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. the Q says:

    Tsar, I guess we all use Peking and Bombay and Saigon and Leningrad and New Amsterdam and Belgian Congo since its such a bitch to use one’s brain, which, when it comes to John Lehman, I am not the least bit surprised.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  40. Jeremy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    You mean whiskey.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. Rob in CT says:

    it’s meant to juice the amygdala. It does not need to pass through the prefrontal cortex on its way there

    I can’t decide whether it’s that, or it’s a case of these folks (Romney’s FP guys) simply being ossified relics who can’t break out of cold-war-era thinking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  42. al-Ameda says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    ….remainder either don’t really care about foreign policy (evangelical Christians) or are not really Republicans (Jeffords, Bloomberg and Chafee types).

    Evangelicals comprise more than 10% of the current Republican Party. The other ‘types’ – Jeffords, Bloomberg and Chafee – comprise less that1% of the Republican Party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. Racehorse says:

    I remember the day in August of 1968 when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague and took over, even after promising to leave the Czech government reforms alone. I don’t want to see that again.
    At the end of WWII, we should have kicked the Russians all the way back to the Russian borders.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  44. Davebo says:

    At the end of WWII, we should have kicked the Russians all the way back to the Russian borders.

    Considering the end of WWII would almost certainly have had a different outcome in Eastern Europe, and elsewhere for that matter I’ve got to say that’s a fairly dickish thing to say.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  45. anjin-san says:

    At the end of WWII, we should have kicked the Russians all the way back to the Russian borders.

    The Russians actually had a pretty badass army in Europe at the time, kicking them anywhere would have been easier said than done. Of course it is always simple to win battles on a blog…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  46. @Racehorse:

    If we had attacked Russia at the end of WWII, they’d have end up in control of all of Europe instead of just the East. Their armor was simply far superior to ours and they did not suffer the supply issues that had allowed our comparatively poorly equipped forces to overcome the Germans through outproducing them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  47. Racehorse says:

    I hope we don’t repeat the same mistake of 1968 and just stand around while Brezhnev’s tanks rolled into Czechoslavakia, breaking an agreement he had made days before with their leaders. This was a disaster and blow to freedom.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  48. Anonne says:

    This was totally primed for the alt-universe cocoon that the 27% live in. It doesn’t matter to Romney that it isn’t true; all that matters is that it stokes the base. And our so-called liberal media will not call him on it, lest they prove the case that they are “liberal.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  49. An Interested Party says:

    Pennsylvania, for example, is an important swing state in which vast numbers of Eastern European immigrants and their descendents reside. Poles. Lithuanians. Hungarians. Croats. Serbs. Slovaks. Etc. Tons of them live in Western PA, especially in the suburbs and exurbs of Pittsburgh. Those people care about such items as missile defense systems in Eastern Europe. They care about any appearance of weakness towards Russia. They also vote.

    Oh yeah, silly talk like this from Romney’s clown car posse will definitely help to swing Pennsylvania to the GOP…totally…

    I remember the day in August of 1968 when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague and took over, even after promising to leave the Czech government reforms alone. I don’t want to see that again.

    Oh look, a Romney voter…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  50. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares that Romney says about foreign policy. Romney’s view are no more relevant than what the Libertarian Candidate or the Green Party candidate says about foreign policy.

    As soon as everyone realizes that the election is basically over, then faster the Democrats can get back to actually trying to implement policy. Of course, for the Democrats to implement policy means that they will have to accept responsibility for the policy and that is the last thing that Democrats want to do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  51. @Racehorse:

    This was a disaster and blow to freedom.

    Yes, but given the only alternative was a nuclear war, it was a disaster that had to be endured.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  52. al-Ameda says:

    @Anonne:

    And our so-called liberal media will not call him on it, lest they prove the case that they are “liberal.”

    and that’s the truth, the “liberal media” is so intimidated by conservative criticism that they constantly backtrack and equivocate. Conservatives have been running the table with their reflexive “liberal media” charge for the better part of 25 years.

    Basically, liberals are pathetic when it comes to fighting back – they have been since 1968.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0