After insulting the British, Mitt Romney jetted off to the Middle East and promptly insulted Palestinians. The frequency with which Romney creates international incidents is more than slightly suggestive of his unfitness to serve as president. And his proclivity for such gaffes begs for a new word to describe his imploding diplomacy, which I am calling “Implomacy.”
This time Romney was attempting to praise Israel as a prosperous and productive nation, but in his inimitably derisive manner, Romney approached the subject from a direction that portrayed Palestinians as inferior culturally.
Romney: Culture makes all the difference. […] As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality. […] And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.
Let’s set aside for the moment that Romney badly misstated the economic facts. According to the World Bank, in 2011 Israel’s GDP was $31,000 per capita, compared to just over $1,500 in the West Bank and Gaza. But the bigger problem with Romney’s remarks is that they are an affront to people who do not have control over their economy. Israel enforces severe restrictions on the territories inhabited by Palestinians. Granted, they may have good cause considering the threat of attacks that have originated from those territories, but the resultant economic conditions can hardly be attributed to any cultural shortcomings on the part of the Palestinian people. The inappropriateness of Romney’s comments are evident if you take the same comments and replace the names of those involved. For instance…
As you come here and you see the median household income, for instance, in Beverly Hills which is about $96,000 dollars, and compare that with the median income just across town in Watts, which is more like $25,000, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality. […] And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.
Would Romney suggest that the residents of Watts are culturally inferior? Or Harlem? Or Mississippi? Does he notice a “dramatically stark difference” in the vitality of residents of Greenwich, CT, as compared to those in West Virginia?
If Romney were to have said something along these lines he would have certainly forfeited the votes of those communities. The problem with his doing it in Israel is that, were he president, he could fatally harm the efforts to bring the region to a negotiated peace. As it stands now, how willing do you think the Palestinians would be to trust Romney to be a fair dealer in future peace talks?
This is not a trivial political dust-up. Lives hang in the balance. And Romney is proving that his hamfisted boorishness is too dangerous to take a chance on. He continues to make us wonder who means by “us.”