Mitt Romney made an utter fool of himself yesterday when he snidely invoked the name of Jimmy Carter to suggest that the green-lighting of the mission to take out Osama bin Laden showed no special presidential courage.
In saying that “even Jimmy Carter” would have approved the effort to get bin Laden, Romney slanderously made light of Carter’s brave, but ill-fated, effort to rescue American Embassy hostages in Iran in 1980.
Romney’s gall in this regard has prompted a flurry of denunciations, two of which are especially worthy of your attention.
First, we have THIS from James Fallows:
Jimmy Carter is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who spent ten years in the uniformed service of his country. As far as I can tell, this is ten years more than the cumulative service of all members of the Romney clan. Obviously you don’t have to be a veteran to have judgments about military policy or criticisms of others’ views. But when it comes to casual slurs about someone else’s strength or resolve, you want to be careful, as a guy on the sidelines, sounding this way about people who have served.
Jimmy Carter did indeed make a gutsy go/no-go call. It turned out to be a tactical, strategic, and political disaster…With another helicopter, the mission to rescue U.S. diplomats then captive in Teheran might well have succeeded.
But here’s the main point about Carter. Deciding to go ahead with that raid was a close call. Carter’s own Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, had opposed the raid and handed in his resignation even before the results were known. And it was a daring call — a choice in favor of a risky possible solution to a festering problem, knowing that if it went wrong there would be bad consequences all around, including for Carter himself. So if you say “even Jimmy Carter” to mean “even a wimp,” as Romney clearly did, you’re showing that you don’t know the first thing about the choice he really made.
And then there’s THIS from Paul Abrams:
Romney seems to have convinced himself that he has demonstrated that he is tougher or has more capacity to make military judgments than Jimmy Carter.
If it were not dangerously delusional, it would be laughable.
Romney seems to believe that the comparison with President Carter, helps his case that he has the experience and/or independence of thought and/or cajones to make the decision, against most of the advice he would have received, to find, capture and kill Osama bin Laden?
It doesn’t. It shows that Romney is even weaker, even more sniveling, even less prepared, even a worse judge of character than he has already displayed.
We know that President Carter’s order to proceed with rescuing the hostages was strongly opposed in his own administration because his Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, resigned because of it. (Yes, America, there was a time when people resigned over matters of principle).
It happened that President Carter’s mission failed, and, because of it, many months later, he lost his bid for re-election to Ronald Reagan. President Carter was blamed for the failed mission. That is what happens to leaders when they make difficult decisions.
It would be interesting to learn the factual or psychological basis, from his personal history, that would have made it even remotely probable that Mitt Romney would have decided to proceed against the advice of his generals. Even the “dispel-the-wimp” theory does not work because the risk of failure was more than Mitt could have borne.