Archive for June 18, 2012

War-Mongering Romney

June 18, 2012 Leave a comment

[Sorry. I couldn’t find an image of Romney tearing up the Constitution.]

CBS’s Bob Schieffer had a chat with Mitt Romney, broadcast on Face the Nation yesterday. The snippet on Iran got a lot of attention today. Here is that portion’s text, emphasis mine:

SCHIEFFER: Let me turn to foreign policy. Bill Kristol, writing in the Weekly Standard this week, says we are reaching the time of consequence in our dealing with Iran on nuclear weapons. He says it is time for the President to go to the Congress and say, “I want you to authorize me to be able to use military force” if that becomes necessary. And he says if the President is not willing to do that, then the Congress should do it themselves. What’s your take on that?

ROMNEY: Well, I can understand the reason for his recommendation and his concern. I think he’s recognized that this president has communicated that in some respects, well, he might even be more worried about Israel taking direct military action than he is about Iran becoming nuclear. That’s the opinion of some who watch this. And so he wants the President to take action that shows that a military Iran, that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable.

And I believe it’s important for us to communicate that. I can assure you if I’m president, the Iranians will have no question but that I will be willing to take military action if necessary to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world. I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m president that we need to have a war powers approval or special authorization for military force. The President has that capacity now. I understand that some in the Senate for instance have written letters to the President indicating you should know that a containment strategy is unacceptable.

We cannot survive a course of action would include a nuclear Iran we must be willing to take any and all actions. All those actions must be on the table.

Scary stuff.

Of course, Romney has no beliefs. He says what he thinks will aid in his election, adding that Obama’s position is the opposite even when they agree. But really — the president is free to act militarily anywhere and any time he wants? (Not that Obama acts otherwise.) And we won’t survive if Iran gets nuclear weapons? As conservative writer Daniel Larison observed this morning,

[Romney] is telling the public plainly that he believes the United States cannot survive a containment policy directed against Iran. It is fair to conclude from this that Romney is delusional (or is pretending to be delusional) and cannot be entrusted with the responsibilities of the Presidency.

The United States survived decades of containing Soviet power. America outlasted what may have been the greatest security threat in our history partly because of a policy of containment. Iran is far weaker than any threat the USSR ever posed. If the U.S. could not survive a nuclear-armed Iran, a President Romney would be powerless to change that. On the other hand, back in the real world, if the U.S. has little to fear from a nuclear-armed Iran and is more than capable of deterring any threat from Iran, there is no reason to listen to anything Romney has to say on this subject.

Romney obviously does not believe war is a last resort, and he clearly doesn’t believe that the Congress has anything to say about attacking Iran. According to Romney, it is something that the President could do tomorrow if he believed it necessary. The Constitution is completely irrelevant to Romney, and so is the consent of the American people expressed through its representatives. No one should have any illusions about how Romney would conduct foreign policy if he is elected.

See also today’s post by Greg Sargent.

Categories: Politics, War

The Art of Fielding

June 18, 2012 Leave a comment

I wrote six days ago about finishing Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes. Next on my reading list were several massively long books, none of which I seemed willing to embark on. It’s not that I don’t want to read them. I just don’t want to devote weeks to them.

There’s Robert Caro’s The Passage of Power, which I keep mentioning as next up. Amanda Foreman’s A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War, which got such astonishingly good reviews last year. Do I really want to read 700 or 800 pages on LBJ, or the Civil War? Though the appeal of these books will lie in their great story telling and portrayal of character, even if they cover seemingly familiar ground. And then there are the Hilary Mantel novels I keep deferring, Wolf Hall and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, now a bestseller. Three years ago I just had to read the first one. Now it has sat in my bedroom unread for two and a half.

I’ll get to them.

Don’t forget Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding, as I almost did. (What would a book be these days without a colonic sub-title? This one is no different. Its sub-title? “A Novel”. Geez, what’s wrong with publishers?) It got rave reviews on its arrival last fall. For instance, by Michiko Katutani in the daily NYT and then by Gregory Cowles a few days later in the Sunday NYT. I made a mental note to myself to read it.

In late November, the NYT named it one of the ten best books of 2011. I re-read the reviews. I downloaded the free opening section, started it, decided to read the book, added it to my list. Two months later, I was still putting it off. Something about 500+ page novels. After another month, I dropped it from my list, having decided that it was probably over-rated. It can’t be that good. And did you see the comments at Amazon? Some people flat-out hated it.

Well, last week, with so many other 500+, 600+, 700+, 800+ page books awaiting me, 510 pages didn’t look so bad. I downloaded The Art of Fielding and began. Progress was slow for three days. A hundred pages in, I caught on that there were five main characters to track. (The fifth one didn’t show up for a while.) Two hundred pages in, things weren’t looking so good for any of them and I wasn’t convinced I wanted to read 500 pages of people failing. Failure may be our ultimate shared fate, but that doesn’t mean I have to read about it. The book starts with such promise for one of the characters. I didn’t anticipate getting much pleasure from his failing, if that’s what was to be. Halfway through, the relationships between the various characters acquired sufficient complexity that simple success or failure on the ball field became less pressing. I could enjoy the characters individually and in pairs and let go of rooting for them.

As for failure, I got to see plenty of that during this past weekend’s US Open golf championship, a subject better left for another post. I’ll just say that my plan on Saturday was to watch the third round, with the final round and Father’s Day activities to fill my day Sunday. However, as Saturday’s golf became its own tale of failure, I found myself shutting the TV in favor of the book, whose last 260 pages I completed over the course of the day.

The book has its weaknesses, perhaps by design. The non-principal characters are barely developed. One of the five principals is thinly developed. At least one relationship I found unconvincing. But no matter. It’s an enchanting story.

Categories: Books