A presidential candidate who writes off nearly half of the American voting population as government-dependent "victims" who don't "take personal responsibility and care for their lives" is a novelty indeed.
But overshadowed and equally revealing in Mitt Romney's taped comments at a private fundraiser in May, uncovered by Mother Jones magazine, were remarks about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran.
Coincidentally, the release of Romney's comments comes just days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the round of Sunday TV news shows pushing the United States to take a harder line toward Iran over its nuclear program, an unseemly injection of a foreign leader into U.S. elections and foreign policy.
With the presidential debates soon upon us Oct. 3, 16 and 22 foreign policy should get more attention than it has to date.
To begin, Romney said at the May fundraiser that he believes Palestinians all of them, apparently "have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace." Such a view, of course, would make it difficult for Romney, if elected president, to have the United States act as an honest broker in reaching a settlement.
Then he rejects the idea of a "two-state solution" a mainstay of U.S. diplomacy saying that if the Palestinians had their own nation, then "the Iranians would want to bring missiles and armament into the West Bank and potentially threaten Israel." This is highly unlikely. The West Bank's borders are with Israel and Jordan, which is not an ally of Iran. The Gaza Strip's borders are with Israel and Egypt.
But this gives Romney an excuse to throw up his hands: "You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem." We just "live with it" and "kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it."
So much for American leadership.
Such views track Netanyahu closely: Opposed to Palestinian statehood. Living with de facto Israeli control over Palestinian enclaves and Israeli settlements.
And then there's Iran. Where President Barack Obama has made it clear he would not accept Iran's producing a nuclear weapon, Romney has drawn the line at Iran's development of "nuclear weapons capability" again channeling Netanyahu.
Iran does not have nuclear weapons, but Netanyahu for 20 years has been scaremongering. In 1992, he predicted that Iran was three to five years from having a nuclear weapon. The United States should be skeptical, given the experience with Iraq, of getting drawn into attacks against hypothetical nuclear weapons in the most volatile region of the world.
Netanyahu and Romney are friends going back to the 1970s, when both worked at the Boston Consulting Group. As the New York Times noted in April, "that history could well influence decision-making at a time when the United States may face crucial questions about whether to attack Iran's nuclear facilities or support Israel in such an action."
The United States was the first nation to recognize Israel in 1948 and gives Israel more than $3 billion a year in military and economic assistance. The United States should be in a posture of independence and leadership, pushing for shared strategic goals with a key democratic ally in the Middle East, not in a relationship of deference.
In the debates beginning in two weeks, Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be prime topics, along with how to handle the aftermath of the Arab Spring and ongoing global terrorism. Romney has some explaining to do.