Romney’s “Sea” Comment

I have noted the following comment, which I missed yesterday, from Romney’s debate performances making the rounds in the social media world:

Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea. It’s the route for them to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, which threatens, of course, our ally Israel.

It has spawned a few memes such as:

 

As amusing as this may well be, I am guessing that what he meant was the “Mediterranean Sea” rather than actually meaning that Iran was landlocked.  The context of the quotation is one in which he is thinking about the geopolitics of Lebanon and Israel, so I think this is actually a case of mis-speaking/think you said one thing, while actually saying another or somesuch rather than a geography fail.

We often hold these guys to unreasonable standards in terms of verbal miscues.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. legion says:

    I am guessing that what he meant was the “Mediterranean Sea”

    Ummmmm…. no. Take a closer look at that map. Even assuming he did mean the Med, that would still require Iran to have a way to get through either Iraq or Turkey to get there, and that ain’t happening. The more reasonable explanation is that Romney, like many politicians, is incapable of shutting up when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But considering that involvement in Syria is one of the key things he & his foreign policy advisors have been harping on for the last couple of weeks, the logic failure in this statement is simply appalling. The word “dilettante” simply doesn’t do justice to Romney’s total disinterest in learning things or doing work.

  2. bk says:

    Oh come on. Stop twisting yourself into a pretzel to make any sense out of this remark, which reminded me of that Miss Teen South Carolina talking about “maps” and “the Iraq”.

  3. CB says:

    Im no Romney booster, but I had the same reaction. it’s pretty clear he was talking about Syria, being the closest Iranian ally, having access to the Mediterranean. Let’s not try to read any more into verbal miscues when there are far more glaring issues here.

  4. @legion: I mean, by the way, strategic access, not using it as a port kind of access.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    I will grant that if we were in a charitable mood we could come up with some explanation involving a hypothetical arms smuggling route to Lebanaon that makes sense. But he’s said this before, and been ridiculed for it before. Didn’t his team have time to come up with “Syria is their conduit to Hezbollah” or some other sensible phrasing?

  6. Ben says:

    Except that Syria still isn’t a route to the Mediterranean Sea, unless you think that they’re just march straight through northern Iraq or southern Turkey. So it’s still wrong.

  7. @Ben: As noted above, I think it is a reference to strategic access.

    Cuba was, for example, a means of strategic access to the Caribbean by the Soviets, but not a physical conduit.

  8. Markey says:

    “I can see Syria from my house.” — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

  9. Marian Wirth says:

    We often hold these guys to unreasonable standards in terms of verbal miscues.

    Amen to that. The German special interest magazine for Romney bashing (as part of their wider field of interest America bashing) SPIEGEL ONLINE has even an entire article up accusing Romney of “knowledge gaps”. It’s getting ridiculous. Omitting “Mediterranean” shouldn’t even count as gaffe, let alone “knowledge gap”. And Romney was right in pointing out that Iran has, in fact, no direct access to the Mediterranean Sea.

  10. Bob Beller says:

    Twice in the last few years Iran has operated it’s warships in the Mediterranean Sea. The thing is, since they have no capability to refuel them at sea, they require somewhere in the Med to get gas. Syria is their only ally, and therefore, the only place they are able to refuel. With a range of 5,000 nautical miles, their Frigates could get to the Med, but they’d be stuck half way through the Red Sea coming home.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    Unreasonable standards?

    Here’s my standard: Do they know less than a high school drop-out kid’s book author named Michael? If so then I’m worried.

    And why exactly would Iran be wanting a path to the Med? Is Iran going to build a navy to challenge in the Med? The Syrian coastline is locked in by Israel to the south and Turkey to the north. An oil pipeline to the Med? Maybe. But why would we oppose that? Is there some advantage to buying their oil off a tanker that comes through the Gulf?

    By the way, I love that we’re all pretending Iraq isn’t an Arab friend to Iran.

  12. CB says:

    @michael reynolds:

    By the way, I love that we’re all pretending Iraq isn’t an Arab friend to Iran.

    Yet more evidence of a failed obama presidency.

  13. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Funniest part of the debate which (until today) went unnoticed by many.

    With my degree (ages ago) in PoliSci, SocSci and Geography, I could not believe that series of words came out of his mouth with an intent to show accumen in foreign policy and/or World Affairs.

    What a maroon.

    I, for one, and very tired of the appologists that need to add words (and great twisted explanations) to Romney’s statements to try to make him not sound the fool.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    @CB:

    I know. Obama never should have invaded Iraq and then completely screwed up the occupation. Back in 2003, five years before he was elected. Damn Muslim time-traveler.

  15. mantis says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Do they know less than a high school drop-out kid’s book author named Michael?

    Which kid? 😉

    But seriously, folks, I think Steven is right that he meant strategic access to the Med, which means much more to Europe than it does to us, which he neglected to mention. My guess is the point is Iran is a threat to Europe, but I don’t know why Romney thinks so.

    I’m much more concerned with the fact that his entire foreign policy team keeps talking about the Soviets. I understand people misspeak, but multiple members of his team keep doing it. It makes you wonder…

  16. C. Clavin says:

    “…I think this is actually a case of mis-speaking/think you said one thing, while actually saying another or somesuch rather than a geography fail…”

    You know…when you sit in a business meeting and say something stupid…it gets noticed. Maybe gets a chuckle. You say several stupid things…it hurts your reputation…and rightfully so.
    So you take this Syria thing…arresting Ahme-whats his name…our Navy is smaller than anytime since 1917…Russia is our number one foe…the Auto Industry should have gone bankrupt…the math works because I’m Mitt Romney and I say it works…well, it begins to add up.
    Not that it matters…Romney will still win…because America is stupid.

  17. Curtis says:

    Thank you for clarifying, Steven. I see your point. From a goods standpoint, it seems like it would be much easier to just go on water around the Arabian peninsula to the Suez canal.

    Thanks, Bob for the information about Iran’s navy in the Mediterranean. The whole thing makes a bit more sense to me now.

  18. David says:

    @CB: Think that is the result of a failed Bush administration. Remove the suni leader of a predominately shite country and you expect a different result?

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    We often hold these guys to unreasonable standards in terms of verbal miscues lies.

    Fixed that for you Steven.

  20. michael reynolds says:

    @mantis:

    Emily. I only write for that one kid. Fortunately she really likes reading.

  21. legion says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’m still not buying it. Romney specifically said:

    It’s their route to the sea. It’s the route for them to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon

    So Iran is arming Hezbollah in Lebanon by shipping gear around the Arabian Peninsula to Syria, and from there on to Lebanon? Occam’s Razor does not approve.

  22. @legion: Actually, the Syria/Hezbollah connection makes more sense than the “sea” bit. Iran has long used Syria as a conduit through which to funnel funds and support to Hezbollah.

    I am not saying that I agree with Romney’s policy views here. However, this is like Obama saying that Austrians speak Austria or making refs to Czechoslovakia.

  23. CB says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I know. Obama never should have invaded Iraq and then completely screwed up the occupation. Back in 2003, five years before he was elected. Damn Muslim time-traveler.

    They always told us he was diabolical, but damn!

  24. J-Dub says:

    Who cares if his mouth just got a little ahead of his brain. It’s still a good excuse to laugh at him. We only have two more weeks to laugh at Rmoney before he disappears into the car elevator of political obscurity. Enjoy it while you can.

  25. @OzarkHillbilly: yes, but technically if it was a lie wouldn’t that mean that he knows the geography but misrepresented it on purpose? The issue here isn’t lying, but rather a question of possible ignorance. It seems to me that there is enough room for benefit of the doubt here to go with mispeaking.

    And, really, there are more than enough truly probelamatic statements put there from Mr. Romney to pick on, yes?

  26. legion says:

    @Steven Taylor:

    However, this is like Obama saying that Austrians speak Austria or making refs to Czechoslovakia.

    Granted – it really falls into the realm of “gaffe” rather than some larger, campaign-ending disaster. But considering this is a subject Romney no doubt specifically studied in preparing for this debate, it’s a particularly embarrassing one for his campaign to address.

  27. David M says:

    @CB:

    Let’s not try to read any more into verbal miscues when there are far more glaring issues here

    I agree with this…

    I had the same reaction. it’s pretty clear he was talking about Syria, being the closest Iranian ally, having access to the Mediterranean

    …but I don’t know how this interpretation helps Romney. Iran cares about access to the Mediterranean Sea why?

  28. CB says:

    @David M:

    I guess id export my answer to Dr Taylor and say that it has more to do with strategic access than having a physical port.

    But yeah, in the end, I agree that none of this makes Romney look terribly informed or coherent.

  29. Tillman says:

    We often hold these guys to unreasonable standards in terms of verbal miscues.

    Yeah. It’s really easy to score a partisan point when you hold politicians to a high standard for quotes that sound dumb without context. Bush fell victim to this constantly.

    Benefit of the doubt leads me to think Romney was making a coherent point that I honestly disagree with, not that he was being stupid.

  30. John Peabody says:

    I agree with the post. No one seriously believes that the President doesn’t know how many states there are. Yet there is a transcript of him adding them up to 57 (in the last, tiring days of the 2008 campaign). Simply a tired person unable to do sums on the fly with the mikes open, so it comes out wrong. Same thing with Romney, I suspect.

  31. David M says:

    @John Peabody:

    Except that Romney has reportedly used the “route to the sea” line many times before.

  32. michael reynolds says:

    It’s one of the real challenges in running against Mr. Romney. He flip-flops so blatantly, lies so consistently, and talks nonsense so frequently that it becomes a sort of super power that’s hard to cope with.

  33. Geek, Esq. says:

    More Cold War mentality from Romney–this time it’s the “Russia seeks cold weather port” meme glued onto Iran/Syria.

  34. Scott says:

    @Geek, Esq.: That’s it!!. The tie to global warming!. The Russians are behind global warming. Climate change is aiding the Russians by creating all season access in the Baltic Sea.

  35. SKI says:

    My presumption was that he confused Iraq and Iran. An understandable mistake given nth at his foreign policy team has rolled out the same approach to Iran that Bush’s did for Iraq.

  36. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    On another point,, today’s Korea Herald has the following headline:

    Romney cites N.K. as one of Obama’s diplomatic failures

    .

    Neocon bellicosity as the answer for NK diplomatic relations–I can’t understand why I didn’t see this solution earlier…

  37. Al says:

    Well Romeny’s correct on one thing, Iran has more underground ships than America does.

  38. al-Ameda says:

    As amusing as this may well be, I am guessing that what he meant was the “Mediterranean Sea” rather than actually meaning that Iran was landlocked.

    I, on the other hand, believe that he was referring to the Great Salt Lake.

  39. Habbit says:

    Let’s all step back and realize that there are (now) 39 comments on this insignificant issue.