The Anglo-Saxon Outrage Of The Day
Two words spoken by a Romney aide have led to a ridiculous firestorm on the right, while the rest of their comments are being ignored.
The blogosphere has been alight today thanks to remarks made by unnamed Romney advisers on the issue of the U.S.-British relationship that appeared in today’s edition of The Telegraph:
As the Republican presidential challenger accused Barack Obama of appeasing America’s enemies in his first foreign policy speech of the US general election campaign, advisers told The Daily Telegraph that he would abandon Mr Obama’s “Left-wing” coolness towards London.
In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”
Not surprisingly, the American news media, as well as many blogs have picked up on these comments with many on the left jumping to the conclusion that this was clearly some kind of racist “dog whistle” by the Romney campaign. One complaint I’ve seen, which Crooks & Liars makes in their post, is the idea that this is an example of Romney criticizing the President from abroad, which is generally frowned upon in American politics. The problem with that argument is that Romney wasn’t the one making the remarks, an adviser did. More importantly, though, the Telegraph byline or the story belongs to Jon Swaine, the paper’s Washington reporter. So the idea that this was something Romney or one of his campaign aides said after getting off the plane at Heathrow simply isn’t true. Pam Spaulding, meanwhile, clearly is pushing the idea that there’s something racial about this, as do Taylor Marsh, Josh Marshall, and Juan Cole, the last of whom somehow manages to bring the Nazis into the conversation.
Kevin Drum sees it differently, though:
I dunno, folks. That first paragraph was pure editorializing by the Telegraph reporter. Only the second paragraph comes from the Romney advisor. So why did he use the term “Anglo-Saxon”? At a guess, because he was talking off the cuff, wanted some kind of phrase that suggested the U.S. and Britain have a shared history — which we obviously do — and that’s what popped out. It was a mistake, but it’s the kind of trivial mistake that happens when you’re talking without notes.
As for the swelling tide of suggestions that this was a racial dog whistle, color me dubious. Does anyone seriously think that the Romney campaign decided that the best way to send a message to Southern whites was via a quote to a London newspaper? That’s a tough sell.
There’s plenty to criticize in the statements from this unnamed Romney adviser without having to make up ridiculous arguments about how this was a racial comment rather than the off-the-cuff remark that Drum describes. He repeats and idea that’s become common on the right that the Obama White House has somehow downgraded the “Special Relationship” with the United Kingdom when, in reality, the available evidence would suggest quite the otherwise. Yes, there is some current frustration among Brits that the U.S. hasn’t been more vocal about the simmering crisis over the Falkland Islands, where the Argentinians seems to be suggesting they are going to attempt to reassert sovereignty over the islands for the first time since the war with Great Britain. However, does anyone seriously doubt that it ever came to a shooting war (a war that would probably be started by Argentina just like the last one was) that the United States would be on the side of its long time ally?
More importantly, despite some odd diplomatic missteps early on in his Administration — such as giving Queen Elizabeth an iPod with Obama’s speeches on it and giving Gordon Brown a set of DVD’s that were incompatible with British televisions — it doesn’t strike me that there’s been any significant change in American-British relations in the past three years. Indeed, judging by David Cameron’s recent visit to the White House, things are as fine as they’ve ever been. It’s true that the Obama Administration has been pushing a more Pacific-looking vision of American foreign policy of late, but that’s not a slight toward the Brits, that’s a recognition of the reality that our interests to the West are just as important as our interests to the East.
These aides also goes back to an issue that has obsessed the right ever since Inauguration Day:
The two advisers said Mr Romney would seek to reinstate the Churchill bust displayed in the Oval Office by George W. Bush but returned to British diplomats by Mr Obama when he took office in 2009. One said Mr Romney viewed the move as “symbolically important” while the other said it was “just for starters”, adding: “He is naturally more Atlanticist”.
For some reason, this has big obsession for so many on the right. It’s true that Churchill has a following among American conservatives. Indeed I’ve long considered him one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th Century myself, but I’ve never quite understood why the right has always been so obsessed over the President’s decision to return a bust of Winston Churchill that had only been in the Oval Office since 2001, especially since replaced it with the bust of Republican President Abraham Lincoln. After all, isn’t it better to have one of America’s greatest President’s represented than a foreign leader? Can someone explain that one to me?
So, there’s plenty to criticize in what these Romney aides said, but trying to turn it into some kind of racial thing is just silly.
Update: The Romney campaign is disavowing the comments that have aroused so much ire on the left:
Andrea Saul, Romney’s press secretary, disputed the comments and emphasized that they did not reflect the beliefs of the former Massachusetts governor.
“It’s not true. If anyone said that, they weren’t reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign,” she told CBSNews.com in an email. Saul did not comment on what specifically was not true.
So, there’s that.