Martin Bashir | September 25, 2012
>>> take day in new york city with the president delivering major speeches at the united nations and the clinton global initiative where his republican rival mitt romney also offered some remarks. and in a breathless day of nonstop talk and travel, mr. romney has just arrived for a rousing event in ohio where he's desperately hoping to claw his way out of a substantial polling deficit. there are sign mrs. romney may be coming to his senses after joking at the clinton global initiative that he could do with a little help from a former president.
>> if there's one thing we've learned in this election season, by the way, it is that a few words from bill clinton can do a man a lot of good. all i got to do now is wait a couple days for that bounce to happen.
>> right, we'll keep our eye on that. the other bump that romney loves to talk about these days is his attack on the president for saying the middle east would face bumps in the road and romney 's suggestion that the president was somehow referring to the deaths of the american ambassador to libya and three other diplomats. a theme that romney reiterated today though in a more muted form.
>> syria has witnessed the killing of tens of thousands of people. the president of egypt is a member of the muslim brotherhood . our ambassador to libya was assassinated in a terrorist attack . iran is moving toward nuclear weapons capability. we somehow feel that we're at the mercy of events rather than shaping events.
>> now, that is a rather different romney to the one we heard behind closed doors at a certain fund-raiser where he seemed quite will to remain at the mercy of all sorts of events like, say, those in the middle east .
>> committed to the elimination of israel and issues i say there's just no way. you move thing along the best way you can and you hope for some degree of stability but you recognize it's going to remain an unsolved problem .
>> and, of course, it was in stark contrast to the president who addressed the united nations today on a wide range of issues warning iran that time is running short for a diplomatic resolution to their nuclear ambitions.
>> make no mistakes, a nuclear armed iran is not a chal llenge that can be contained. that's why the united states will do what we must to prevent iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon .
>> the president devoted a large portion of his speech to the arab spring and its fallout. just two weeks after the attacks that killed ambassador chris stevens , the president promised even as we will bring the killers to justice, he will not back down from supporting democracy nor from protecting freedom of speech . indeed, the president extended his spirited defense of free expression even to remarks against himself.
>> as president of our country and commander in chief of our military, i accept that people are going to call me awful things every day. and i will always defend their right to do so. [ applause ]
>> i wonder who he's been talking about there. let's get right to our panel now. in washington dana mill bank, political columnist for "the washington post ." in west palm beach , florida, msnbc political analyst professor michael eric dyson who we have persuaded to leave his mojito by the poolside and in washington, political analyst david corn . david , we know mitt romney behind closed doors is quite willing to let all sorts of thorny international issues be kicked down the road. yet today he complains of our being at the mercy of events. now, should we assume that given his running of a single olympics in utah he's now qualified to dominate every world nation and make them behave as we'd like them to?
>> excuse me, you took what he said today seriously?
>> i did. i always do.
>> i think that's the problem --
>> i'm sorry.
>> as you did, as millions did, you know, those tapes i put out last week, you know, the stuff that he said about the palestinian/israeli crisis was a little overshadowed by the 47% remark which more people could relate to, but it was quite troubling because he was pandering to i think as much an extent as we've ever seen a candidate pander in talking to the donors in that room --
>> david , david , you're saying it was quite troubling. i thought it was absolutely staggering that a man would stand up two purports to be president of the united states and describe the palestinians as totally disinterested in any form of peace. it's unbelievable.
>> put that aside. i mean, he may believe that, and wrongly so, but what he said was in that meeting, he doesn't believe in a two-state solution, which he's entitled to believe, but publicly he's say he believed in a two-state solution. he's either lying there or lying to the public. in the same set of remarks he joked a former secretary of state had called him and said, you know, i think there are prospects for peace in the middle east and romney says literally, really? i didn't delve into that with him. he showed no interest in a way to peace in the middle east . you put that together and this is a guy who is not serious on the issue, yet he goes to the u.n. today and says that obama is willing to be shaped by external events. i mean, it's really something that we should be laughing or maybe crying at and not taking it all seriously.
>> okay. well, dana , corn is utterly dismissing mr. romney . romney 's foreign policy mouthpiece was challenged by andrea mitchell to defend his somewhat hawkish posture towards iran . take a listen, dana .
>> is governor romney really prepared to go to war with iran right now and open up a regional war?
>> so governor romney has not advocated military action and any suggestion that he has by the president or his surrogates is a mischaracterization.
>> dana , i'm sorry, so romney doesn't advocate military action , but the president is weak for not advocating military action . how does that one work?
>> let me explain it that way, the position romney is taking on any foreign policy issue is he disagrees with president obama regardless of president obama 's position on this. afghanistan. he disagrees with it. what would he do differently?
>> we don't know. he disagrees with the position on iran , on israel. what would he do differently? nothing, because the united states are at the mercy of events unless he is going to reinstate the neocon advisers.
>> 17 of the 24 advised president bush .
>> and we saw what the results of that were. yes, you can shape events and you can invade iraq and we see years later what the consequences of that were. so short of that, he does not -- of starting a new war, he doesn't really have another policy option.
>> excellent. professor dyson, romney has claimed that the president belittled the deaths of ambassador stevens and three other americans when he spoke of the middle east experiencing bumps in the road. that's obviously a desperate attempt to undermine the president on foreign policy . and yet at the same time, sir, mr. romney thinks nothing of belittling 47% of the american population.
>> absolutely right. the reality is this, is that mitt romney is attempting to exploit the statements by president obama , take them out of context, and use them as a pretext to justify his assault upon the foreign policy of the obama administration and yet we know what he really thinks. again, we've seen behind the curtain. we see that the wizard of oz is a small guy. we see os not the big, bad wolf that he claims to be in his hawkish policies. here is a guy who dismiss the with elite condescension with the vast majority of americans. it's inexplicable why mitt romney would continue to poll even moderately well among those members of the white working class or working poor or those who are even in the middle class because mitt romney thinks they're a bunch of moochers and hangers on and victimizers and victim hmong gmongerers. his picture of them is so distorted that we can't trust what he says about obama and we can't even trust what he says about the people who would ostensibly be part of his constituency. i think the man is confused. it's not the bump on the road, it's the bump on his head from which he's suffering a bunch of stars and he can't see.
>> i want to put a question to all of you. despite mitt romney delivering i think a relatively reasonable speech for him, he did manage to throw in his hackneyed line about not apologizing for america. is that his favorite foreign policy strategy?
>> he wrote a whole book about it.
>> i have read the book.
>> he's kind of stuck with it at this point in time. i think it's very interesting, i was talking to an obama adviser just today, and, you know, the romney camp is trying to use the usual republican playbook on foreign policy , just call the democrat weak. everyone knows the democrats are weak so say he's weak and we're strong and that's good enough. after the bin laden raid and all the other attacks on al qaeda , libya , and what bush did in iraq and not really prosecuting the war in afghanistan with any attention, the tables have turned, and you can't just have this reflective democrats are weak attack anymore. the public is not buying it. and yet romney still is sort of acting like it's 1979 and he can just come up with these catch phrases. i don't want to apologize for america, and it plays with his base. i don't think it gets him too far down the road with independents, with anybody who reads or thinks for more than a few moments but he's stuck, he's in this groove he's been in for a year and a half now and he can't get out of it even though i agree with you, the speech today was a lot more reasonable than a lot of things he's said up to date.
>> dana , this line of the president's apologiesed even though there's no evidence --
>> the original definition is to explain, doesn't mean to express contrition. i think he's just saying i'm not going to explain.
>> dana mill bank, professor michael eric dyson , and david corn , thank you all.