Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

On world stage, Romney showed smarts

By William J. Bennett, CNN Contributor
August 2, 2012 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
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
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT