Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

On world stage, Romney showed smarts

By William J. Bennett, CNN Contributor
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Thu August 2, 2012
Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, after a visit Tuesday to the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw, Poland.
Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, after a visit Tuesday to the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw, Poland.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • William Bennett: In his trip to England, Israel and Poland, Mitt Romney blazed his own trail
  • In Israel, he forcefully sought bolder action against Iran, Bennett says
  • Bennett: In Poland, Romney offered a full embrace of Lech Walesa and the Polish people
  • If you doubt Romney's political adroitness, note his respect for Catholicism, Bennett says

Editor's note: William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood." He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.

(CNN) -- For the past week, Mitt Romney brought his presidential campaign abroad to England, Israel and Poland, leaving his initial footprint on the foreign policy landscape. He may have ventured off path once or twice, but, to paraphrase J.R.R Tolkien, not all those who travel are lost. He blazed his own trail, one that will do him much good at home and abroad.

Before he even left for London, liberal commentators, on both sides of the Atlantic, jumped all over his alleged gaffe on Britain's readiness for the Olympics. Romney was asked a question by Brian Williams, which he answered like a technocrat, an expert, and one of the few men in the world who has run an Olympic Games.

As Dorothy Rabinowitz so wisely noted, "He did what a man who prizes his authority on a subject does -- he answered. He reflected on possibilities. It was a serious subject -- his subject." If he's to be blamed for anything, it's speaking too much like an expert and not a politician.

Critics of Romney often patronize him for sounding too scripted and too much like a politician. Now, when he speaks openly and freely, they criticize him for not being enough of a politician or diplomat. They can't have it both ways.

William J. Bennett
William J. Bennett

From England he traveled to Israel, where he strongly backed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli people and subtly distanced himself from President Barack Obama by vocalizing bolder action against Iran.

"We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option," Romney said. "We must lead the effort to prevent Iran from building and possessing nuclear weapons capability. We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course."

Opinion: Romney on Iran is just like Obama

But rather than focus on Iran, our most pressing foreign policy dilemma, the liberal media manufactured another alleged gaffe -- Romney's comments on the cultural differences between Israelis and Palestinians. Again, much ado about nothing. It's hard to dispute the powerful and rich culture of the Jewish people, especially when quoting "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations" by David Landes, an erudite Harvard professor.

Grading Romney's overseas trip
Is Romney's stance on Iran resonating?
Newsweek: Is Romney a wimp?

To his credit, Romney didn't let this slow him down. He concluded the trip by traveling to Poland for a full embrace of Lech Walesa and the Polish people, a strong contrast to the cold shoulder Obama gave to Poland earlier in his presidency. In 2008, despite direct threats from Russia, Poland agreed to accept U.S. missile defense sites. In 2009, Obama folded to Russian criticism and abandoned the missile system, in turn abandoning the Polish people.

In a not so subtle jab to the president, Romney declared in Poland, "I believe it is critical to stand by those who have stood by America. Solidarity was a great movement that freed a nation. And it is with solidarity that America and Poland face the future."

Romney's closeness to Walesa and the Polish freedom fighters is nothing short of Reaganesque. At a time when the president tries desperately to compare him to George W. Bush, Romney is making Obama look and feel more like Jimmy Carter.

Opinion: When did the GOP become the whiners?

To those who doubt Romney's political adroitness, examine his deep respect for Catholicism both in Poland and here in the United States. Speaking of the Soviet Union, Romney added, "The false gods of the all-powerful state claim the allegiance of a lonely few. It is for us, in this generation and beyond, to show all the world what free people and free economies can achieve for the good of all."

Given that the controversial Department of Health and Human Services' contraception mandate, viewed by many Catholics as a direct threat to their religious conscience, went into effect August 1 for all employers, other than churches and houses of worship (religiously affiliated institutions such as Catholic hospitals and universities have a one-year exemption before they must comply), this statement is timely and bold.

Romney also embraced Pope John Paul II, a Polish and Catholic hero, one of the men most responsible for the fall of Communism. "And here, in 1979, a son of Poland, Pope John Paul II, spoke words that would bring down an empire and bring freedom to millions who lived in bondage. 'Be not afraid' -- those words changed the world," Romney said.

The contrast could not be clearer -- "Be not afraid" or "You didn't build that" -- one man's vision of hope, resolution and encouragement versus condescension, apathy and inertness. If this is the electoral choice Romney can frame for the nation, he will be one step closer to the White House.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of William J. Bennett.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:10 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
If Obama thinks pushing out Hagel will be seen as the housecleaning many have eyed for his national security process, he'll be disappointed, says David Rothkopf.
updated 8:11 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
The decision by the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney to announce the Ferguson grand jury decision at night was dangerous, says Jeff Toobin.
updated 3:57 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
China's influence in Latin America is nothing new. Beijing has a voracious appetite for natural resources and deep pockets, says Frida Ghitis.
updated 4:51 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran on June 14, 2014.
The decision to extend the deadline for talks over Iran's nuclear program doesn't change Tehran's dubious history on the issue, writes Michael Rubin.
updated 2:25 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
updated 7:44 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
updated 6:29 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
updated 8:34 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
updated 3:12 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
updated 10:13 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
updated 5:56 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
updated 3:11 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
updated 8:45 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
updated 10:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
updated 12:59 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
updated 9:58 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
updated 4:41 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
updated 8:21 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
updated 7:16 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
updated 11:07 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT