Romney’s Major Flip-Flops in the Third Debate

Gov. Mitt Romney continued his amazing chameleon act in the third presidential debate, apparently reversing several of his earlier talking points on foreign policy in the game’s ninth inning.

On Israel-Palestine

Romney said Monday,

” Is — are Israel and the Palestinians closer to — to reaching a peace agreement? No, they haven’t had talks in two years. We have not seen the progress we need to have . . .”

But in a secretly videotaped fundraiser in Boca Raton last May, Romney had said about the Israel-Palestine conflict:

“So what you do is, you say, you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem….and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”

So in public Romney is criticizing Obama for lack of progress in the peace process, without mentioning that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has in the past actually boasted about derailing the Oslo peace accords. But in private he admitted that likely under these circumstances, no progress is likely, and that the ball would have to be kicked down the field.

Verdict: Flip-flop.

On Afghanistan

Romney on Monday said

“Well, we’re going to be finished by 2014. And when I’m president, we’ll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014. The commanders and the generals there are on track to do so. We’ve seen progress over the past several years. The surge has been successful, and the training program is proceeding apace.”

Although Romney had earlier generally given an impression of concurring with the 2014 withdrawal date, he had earlier hedged it by saying:

“I will evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders . . .”

So before, he implied that Obama was riding roughshod over the Joint Chiefs of Staff in high-handedly making Afghanistan policy, whereas he, Romney would defer to them. Now he has withdrawn that objection, acknowledging that the Pentagon is on board with this withdrawal timetable.

Verdict: Flip-Flop.

On the Egyptian Revolution

Romney said:

“But once it exploded, I felt the same as the president did, which is these — these freedom voices in the — the streets of Egypt where the people who were speaking of our principles and the — the — President Mubarak had done things which were unimaginable, and the idea of him crushing his people was not something that we could possibly support.”

But on Feb. 1, 2011, Romney had refused to call Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak “a dictator:”

So during the uprising Romney avoided the word “dictator,” but now he admits that Mubarak had done things that were unimaginable (i.e. dictatorial things?)

Verdict: Flip-Flop

Romney said Monday, “We don’t want another Iraq.” He said it in the context of diplomatic efforts to convince Muslims to abandon radicalism. He seems to be admitting that the Iraq War was an error.

But in 2003, Romney supported the Iraq War.

If Romney views the Iraq War has having been about religious extremism, he should be reminded that the Baath regime in Iraq, horrible as it was, was a secular nationalist one that repressed religious fundamentalism.

Verdict: Flip-flop.

Posted in US politics | 27 Responses | Print |

27 Responses

  1. the debates are just show business, highly managed (read the contract between the two camps?) and part of the distraction industry, a mechanism for avoiding anything of serious consequence.

    questions of style, and scorekeeping, really don’t serve the american public.

  2. Great observations Mr. Cole, I know you concentrated on the “flip-flop”, but flip-flop is least of Romney’s problems.

    Here is a good one for you;
    I am still laughing, and ironically not many in the media mentioning it, which only means nobody got it !!!!
    I never thought I would miss Sarah Palin’s gaffs but in retrospect seeing Russia from her backyard is an infinitely smarter statement in comparison.
    Ambrose Bierce once said; “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” I have a bad news for Ambrose Bierce, nope either the God failed or the Americans :-)))

    As if that wasn’t comic enough the Democratic Party decided they should take advantage of this opportunity to expose Romney’s lack of geography, so they immediately posted a map of the region and with two fat red arrow point to the Caspian Sea in the North!!! :)))) and Persian Gulf in the South!!! Ayyyay yaaay yaayyy, this much comedy shouldn’t be for free if you ask me.

  3. Dear Professor Cole

    Do you mean to suggest that that nice Mr Romney might not be telling the whole truth and that if he gets elected he might not keep all his promises?

  4. “Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. And for them to be able to provide nuclear technology to non-state actors, that’s unacceptable. And they have said that they want to see Israel wiped off the map.

    So the work that we’ve done with respect to sanctions now offers Iran a choice. They can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program or they will have to face a united world and a United States president, me, who said we’re not going to take any options off the table.”–President Obama

    link to

  5. When Schieffer asked Romney if he “would use drones” he eagerly, of course, endorsed the President’s enthusiastic use of Drone Warfare – now enshrined as a Presidential, or shall we say, Kingly Right. He almost seemed excited by the prospect of having his Own Private Hit List!

    I only pray that Obama had even a nano-second of prescient thought: “Oh shit, what have I wrought? If I get a second term, maybe I should rein-in the droning?” Probably not, he strikes me as sociopathic in this regard. Or maybe powerless? For all his Good Words and Good Looks, he’s creepy in some crucial areas.

    And surely, as everybody knows by now, these drone strikes in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somali, Libya (& countries/regions unknown?) are killing more “civilians” (Old&Young Men&Women Boys&Girls Infants) than the “targeted militants” (whoever they might be in varying contexts around the world?).

    Thank you Mr. President, for your reckless behavior. We all feel safer now. Not.

    • now enshrined as a Presidential, or shall we say, Kingly Right

      False. The Obama administration, unlike the Bush administration, cited the AUMF Congress passed in 2001 as the legal authority under which such air strikes are authorized. They explicitly renounced the Bush-era doctrine that they were legal under executive authority.

      And surely, as everybody knows by now, these drone strikes in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somali, Libya (& countries/regions unknown?) are killing more “civilians” (Old&Young Men&Women Boys&Girls Infants) than the “targeted militants” (whoever they might be in varying contexts around the world?).

      Not even the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the anti-drone outfit Professor Cole links to, makes this claim. Even their highest estimates of civilian casualties put them around 25-33% of total deaths.

      Can we please discuss these issues with a due respect for the established facts?

  6. Romney’s other issue during the debate was China.
    Mitt Romney Chinese Investments – Romney partnership in Huawei. 2007 Republican Duncan Hunter “The biggest thing to me is the Huawei/Bain partnership to take over 3Com”

    link to

    link to
    CBS on 60 Minutes did a segment on Huawei, the link is above.

    Romney won’t tell about Sensata workers who jobs currently are being sent to China.

    “Why the refusal to line up his actions with his promises? A must-read, must-read, must-read news report explains how part of Romney’s $450,000/week income comes from … get this … shipping jobs to China!”

    link to

  7. I counted 20 outright Romney lies during the debate, including the contradictions or flip-flops you cite here, but he was lieing so often and with such impunity that I probably missed a whole bunch. He is the most dishonest man to ever seek the presidency – outdoing even Nixon – and is trying to show that he can win with a combination of lots of dark money and a total disregard for the truth.

  8. Amy Goodman was kind enough and brilliant enough, brave enough to allow the Green and another party’s candidate for US President to present their ideas on the questions posed by debate moderator. Democracy Now recognized the lack of mention of the environment and stuff within the two political party system. How it is under the thumb and influence of Big Media corporate control and broke free of the shackles.
    The Green party’s candidate Jill Stein had been arrested for trying to enter the debate between Obama and Romney last time.
    She spoke up for our Earth which is in dire emergency of need for intervention by mankind to undo past harm to Sky..
    I hope Barack, when he gets back into second term recognizes the events that just happened and takes seriously efforts by little guys to try and keep Earth Alive
    because with out full effort now the Earth will die.. Flat out die and no not for a little while or in a fictional way.
    There is plan put forward at Arctic News blog and it needs application at highest level and the flexibility of good gov
    Because without immediate action Arctic will release CH4^9.

  9. It would have taken uncommon journalistic courage for the following question to have been asked at the debate: Who made the following address on March 17, 2000? “In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran’s popular prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons. But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran’s political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.”

    -The answer: Madeleine Albright: U.S. Secretary of State, 1997 – 2001. link to

    -The American people are not fools. They know the US has worked against democracy in many instances in the Middle East. Having the answer to the above question widely known could possibly change the temperature on Iran and lead to positive results.

  10. Well, as far as I know he’s been entirely consistent on the point that Syria constitutes Iran’s outlet to the sea. There’s that.

  11. How is this prosecution of Ahmadinejad Romney proposed going to work?

    The World court does not take cases against individuals and the GOP does not recognize the ICC since there would be a risk that Bush, Cheney and co would be up there on trial in the Hague for real war crimes. Crimes like illegal war, use of torture, targeting civilian populations and so on.

    Hate speech is not even illegal in the US and if it were then Romney’s own statements would be criminal as would many statements by AIPAC and so on. Netanyahu’s statements about Iran have been at least as bellicose as those of Ahmadinejad.

  12. What struck me was that Romney appeared to be drawing on very fresh knowledge for his answers.

    He appeared to have a very thin, almost tenuous grasp of foreign policy, one that was made up primarily of factoids about particular countries and regions. Nothing overarching.

    Occasionally, he smiled as if taking pleasure in having successfully recalled what he’d had pounded into his head by the team that were up all night prepping him.

    He was like Sarah Palin with a better memory.

  13. Barack Obama‏@BarackObama

    “If you say you love Medicare, but your plan turns it into a voucher that ends the guaranteed benefit of Medicare—you’ve got #Romnesia.”

    tweeted by President Obama

  14. Thanks, Dr. Cole! Unfortunately, the debate’s outcome will be judged by the talking heads of the media, who only see the “stage presence” part. Who spoke with the most certainty, whose body language conveyed the most aggressiveness, whose makeup girl did the best job – and what about that hair, those ties? Who had the self assurance to interrupt the most? Who was the rudest to the moderator? Which one was most successful in hijacking the conversation?

    This is what will be conveyed, nonstop, day after day on all the stations. Even folks who actually watched or listened to the debate will be influenced. After all, these are the experts! Maybe I shouldn’t trust my lyin’ eyes and ears!

    And ultimately, only the “wonks” care about facts and history. Not real Amurkinz. It’s unmanly and effeminate to actually know anything in today’s U.S.A.

  15. All this and more in every topic discussed throughout this unending pageant. Yet, the polls and pundits, of all persuasions, seem to agree that at minimum race too close to call.
    The absolute loser in this campaign and probable winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 will be the English language. Abused and manipulated it still remains staid and unwavering as it passes into irrelevance in this most communicative era in human history.

  16. What is your take on the extreme fealty to Israel that both men repeatedly expressed in the debate? Does this build the good will necessary for us to somehow convince the Muslim nations to become more moderate, per our definition of moderate of course? Also what about Obama’s comment that Egypt’s abrogation of the treaty with Israel would be a red line? Does that mean drones and sanctions?

    I was amused by Sheiffer’s hypothetical question about what the candidates would do if Iran attacked Israel. It produced the the quickest knee jerks of the night, they both promised unyielding military support for Israel (we have their back). But the not-so-hypothetical of Israel attacking Iran, or both candidates promising, in so many words, US military violence if Iran got close to a nuclear weapon, was never discussed – just mentioned.

  17. Dale above said:

    “because with out full effort now the Earth will die.. Flat out die and no not for a little while or in a fictional way.”

    I beg to differ, the Earth will be just fine thanks! Indeed, once we have made it uninhabitable for our own short sighted and greedy species, it will likely be a lot better for those species that manage to survive, and some will. Whichever species do manage to survive will find it difficult, if not impossible to be as self destructive and stoooooooopid as we (with our supposed intelligence) are proving ourselves to be! And I must admit, that as an ex-pat myself, the United States of America is truly an exceptional nation, exceptionally retarded and hazardous to the health of the rest of the world.

  18. My opinion is that neither Obama nor Romney are sufficiently scholarly to articulately discuss Middle Eastern issues but are merely playing lip service to the pro-Israel lobby.

    Jimmy Carter’s books he has published on the Middle East and Israel have been erudite and insightful about issues central to the Israel/Palestine conflict.

    Until we have an administration that will speak as candidly and authoritatively as Jimmy Carter has, we will continue to have stalemate and the cycle of violence and human suffering in that region.

  19. former chief of Mossad doesn’t seem to like Romney very much – some snippets:

    “Negotiating with Iran is perceived as a sign of beginning to forsake Israel. That is where I think the basic difference is between Romney and Obama. What Romney is doing is mortally destroying any chance of a resolution without war. Therefore when [he recently] said, he doesn’t think there should be a war with Iran, this does not ring true. It is not consistent with other things he has said. […]”


    “Obama does think there is still room for negotiations,” Halevy said. “It’s a very courageous thing to say in this atmosphere. In the end, this is what I think: Making foreign policy on Iran a serious issue in the US elections — what Romney has done, in itself — is a heavy blow to the ultimate interests of the United States and Israel.”

    link to

  20. According to Andrew Bacevich, the Abrams/Colin Powell faction at the Pentagon restored the military after Vietnam by talking about narrow conditions for using the military, but spending like crazy on it, a pretty toy never to be used. In other words, they played on the public’s fears of losing boys overseas while clinging to the imperial commitment. This faction fit well with the G. H. W. Bush presidency, and Clinton afterwards, despite the fall of the USSR. But then it got stuck when crazier right-wingers came along and argued that if we were going to spend that much, we might as well blow up countries and profit thereby. Evil as that sounds, it was a popular argument among ordinary folks here in Texas and likely many other states.

    Thus the Powell faction got drummed out of the GOP and in effect became the permanent doctrine of the Democrats, and the Neocon faction became the permanent doctrine of the GOP. The trap is that the Powell doctrine rewards use of cheap new toys like drones as long as body bags are avoided, but the growing arrogance of the public, seeing it can crush other countries without paying in blood, not only leads to unlimited increases in high-tech spending, but paves the way for the Neocon riposte, that if we DO get a few of our boys killed the rewards will be vastly greater. Obama-Romney looks like another round of this game, and it can be played repeatedly until the country’s economic base is fully ruined. Look at the long decline of other great empires to see how long this can continue.

  21. […] The real challenge was counting how many times Israel was loved/praised/embraced/kissed during the 90 minute discussion (clue: 65432 times). I argued that it’s remarkable how little it is acknowledged that one nation, Israel, requires constant attention without any criticism. The Palestinians were essentially invisible but the “threat” from Iran was paramount. On Afghanistan, Iraq and drones, both men had very similar policies. It’s quite possible, however, that a Romney presidency will be more extreme because of the Bush era neo-cons around him, loving the smell of burning Muslim flesh in the morning. An outsider would regard both men as living in a parallel universe. […]

  22. C’mon, Juan — flip-floppery and Untruthiness are so, you know, passé as decisional electoral issues any more, almost even except when nominal Democrats do them, or what are called “poll-itical operatives” can glue Politifacticated “interpretations” that can be made to look like either, to this or that wimpy Dem candidate. Look upward, to your selection from Tomdispatch today, and outward to whatever sh_t is flooding from the home entertainment speakers today, and backward to the long accelerating climb to our idiot present eminence as “the leader of the Freeeeee World.

    If you integrate all the data, the derivative equals negative infinity, and spells out “We, the Most Of Us, are simply Screwed. And our little dogs too.”

  23. On this morning’s radio (Wednesday) a pollster claimed the “flip flops” have worked. By reassuring the country if elected he wouldn’t immediately start a war he has gone ahead in the polls.

    If true, that is really quite astonishing. These elections do appear to come down to some very low levels of superficiality. On TV Romney “appears” presidential. He looks good. No matter what he has said in the past in that bright moment sitting with the president he comes on as a credible presidential replacement. And he promises to be a peace loving president. That ploy must have been contrived. And, at this moment, it appears to have worked.

  24. Re: the flip flops. In Rolling Stone’s excellent political writing, there was a reference to Romney getting permission from the Mormon Church to take a liberal position on abortion in Massachusetts because it would help him get elected

    When your church encourages that Weltanschauung, what do you expect? Can you imagine a Catholic candidate being given the go-ahead to be pro-choice so that he/she could be elected? In many cases, such candidates have actually been refused Communion, not praised.

    I cannot believe that Mormon teachings haven’t at least been thoughtfully discussed.

  25. While both candidates continued posturing about Mid East Peace solutions, ineffectually, this article appeared in Sydney Morning Herald yesterday,a day after the poll results went public in Israel,(Haaretz) but still not covered by US outlets.

    Apartheid is not really apartheid if you don’t use the word out loud-

    Israelis back discrimination against Arabs: poll
    Ruth Pollard
    Middle East Correspondent
    Sydney Morning Herald
    Published: October 24, 2012 – 10:04AM

    link to

    JERUSALEM: Most Jewish citizens of Israel support discrimination against Palestinians, a new poll has found, with 69 per cent advocating preference for Jews over Arabs in government jobs and 74 per cent in favour of segregated roads in the West Bank.

    Three months before Israel’s elections, which the right-wing Likud party of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is expected to win comfortably, the separatist sentiments highlight growing concerns that peace talks have stalled irretrievably and a two-state solution is no longer viable.

    More than two-thirds of the 503 Jewish citizens questioned by the polling company Dialog said they would oppose voting rights for the 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank if it was annexed to Israel.

    And 42 per cent indicated they did not want to live in the same building as Arabs or have their children in the same class as Arab children, the poll found.

    When specifically questioned on the thorny issue of whether there is apartheid in Israel, 58 per cent said there was – of those, 39 per cent said apartheid existed “in some respects” and 19 per cent said it existed “in many respects”. Thirty-one per cent believed there was no apartheid.

    The findings support what many Palestinians living in Israel say they experience – a system of entrenched unfairness in which everything from government jobs to education, health services and even garbage collection is affected.

    “There is a very intricate, pervasive system of discrimination against Palestinians in Israel,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation executive committee. “I blame the ongoing occupation, the lack of accountability and the extremely hostie policies and rhetoric of Netanyahu and his coalition.”

    For the most part the survey, commissioned by a private foundation, the Yisraela Goldblum Fund, revealed what past polling had suggested – that Israelis “accept the policies of separation”, said Dahlia Scheindlin, a public opinion analyst and academic based in Tel Aviv.

    “The only thing shocking about the poll was people’s response to the term ‘apartheid’ . . . research I have done over the years indicates in general Israelis support certain kinds of discriminatory behaviour but they reject the term apartheid,” Ms Scheindlin said.

    An Israeli Democracy Institute 2010 index measured similar sentiments – it found most respondents (55 per cent) believed greater resources should be allocated to Jewish rather than Arab communities.

    As with the institute’s survey, the Dialog poll reveals clear differences among the different religious and secular communities in Israel.

    “The greatest anti-Palestinian trends are among the Ultra-Orthodox community,” the poll found. “Eighty-four per cent of them are against civil rights for Palestinians, 83 per cent for separation on roads [and] 53 per cent of annexing areas of the settlements.” Echoing Dr Ashrawi’s concerns, poll analysis provided by the Yisraela Goldblum Fund found: “Anti-Arab racism and support for apartheid are fed by the stalling of negotiations to solve the conflict with the Palestinians over statehood, with settlement construction a major factor.” There are now more than half a million Jewish settlers living across the 1967 borders in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and settlement expansion continues unabated, despite US and European Union pressure on Israel to suspend construction.

    On Tuesday, as the poll results were made public, Mr Netanyahu visited one of the largest settlements, Gilo, which is considered illegal under international law.

    Established in East Jerusalem in 1971, Gilo is home to more than 32,000 Israelis and Israel announced plans last week to expand the settlement with 800 new apartments.

    “United Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital. We have full rights to build in it,” Mr Netanyahu said. “We have built in Jerusalem, we are building in Jerusalem and we will continue to build in Jerusalem.”

    This story was found at: link to

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