Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Romney, Benghazi and Subtextual Islamophobia

Sorry for not posting in a while. But, as usual, this blog is meant to respond to certain events or writings that just get my goat! And today is a day to vent (with very hot steam) at the Romney campaign.

We all know he's a fool when it comes to foreign policy. But this fuck up is intolerable and inexcusable. Everyone is condemning Romney for condemning Obama for "apologizing" for American foreign policy. Everything his campaign has issued has been full of factual errors. He's also committed several original sins of being a presidential candidate. He didn't wait to get all of the details before responding. He's violated superficial norms about not criticizing the President during a foreign policy crisis. Did not show a proper unified American stance. He politicized a tragic event.  "How dare he violate decorum?!" is the general critique so far. He violated procedures and protocol.

But let's look at the substance!
Romney accuses Obama of "apologizing" for America. Let's set aside the giant argument whether the US should apologize for its actions in the Middle East over the past 80 years. After all, the list is very long. And let's put aside the immediate issue of determining even if that statement is factually accurate. I've looked over the suspected messages on twitter and see no such thing that comes close.
Assuming the campaign is rational, I know, difficult to do...I see four possible explanations.

1. They really believe that this argument about Obama apologizing for America is a strong sell. Even though we all know it to be wrong, it resonates with the right-wing base. You all know why. But, in a nutshell, it goes like this: "This strange foreign man that illegitimately won the presidency, who wasn't even born here, doesn't like America and 'what it stands for' and is selling America out." Add additional obvious stuff here. In short, Romney is going to his base.
----Side note: if this was the strategy, then why backpedal on your desire to repeal all of Obamacare recently?

2a. There's something more craven here...tring to take advantage of a crisis to demonstrate your bona fides of "strength" and "resoluteness" when the president is trying to figure things out. No...not too convincing.

2b. Incompetence. Convincing, but not entirely rational.

3. Let's get to the "subtext" of the Romney's critique. Yes, Reason #1 holds. But it's built on a foundation of intolerance for Islam. Start: why would it be wrong for the US embassy to condemn the video that instigated the violence? Any rational person would condemn the video as a horrible case of bigotry, prejudice and full of hate (although I'm sure Bill Maher will have no problem with the video, unfortunately, because it will only justify his contempt for organized religion). And the condemnation of these videos is the apology that Romney is referring to? So, apologizing for hate speech is wrong? The fact that Rumfeld agrees who adds fuel to the argument that these neocons have something more sinister lurking in the minds than just an erroneous view of foreign policy and how the world works..namely, some latent and not so implicit Islamophobia. This would be a rational response given their ideology.

Of course, the media won't latch on to this as an explanation for a while, until they try to understand what Romney meant and connect it to actual words. Anyway, don't hold your breath for them to do that all. They're more obsessed about how this affects the drama on the political stage, rather than what words mean and the arguments being articulated. And a new shiny object is distracting everyone (iPhone 5!!). But more needs to be written about not the procedures and protocols that Romney violated, but the norms of tolerance is violating and the intolerance he is defending.

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