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 12:26 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT