msnbc | September 17, 2012
>> nick, you wrote an article about mitt romney as the foreign relations fumbler. is there risk in this for him?
>> he's demonstrated that risk repeatedly. essentially everything he touches on foreign policy manages to break. the trip to the uk was the best example. that's the simplest possible -- that's kind of the second-grade test of a diplomacy, to go to britain. and he screwed that up by offering the british some suggestions about how the olympics weren't going to go well. and the israel trip likewise. and then just last week with the events in the middle east , again, he just seemed -- everybody makes mistakes on the cuff. and so his initial mistakes, i think, were a little more forgivable. the next day when he doubled down, that seemed just astonishing to me. and most recently, it turns out he doesn't even know his own iran policy, which is one of the basic differences between him and president obama . he completely muddled his policy about where he has a nuclear red line toward iran. look, lots of candidates haven't written their own briefing papers, their own policy position papers. but romney hadn't even seem to have read his.
>> jackie, here we're in a position where this is exactly what a lot of analysts were talking about six months ago, nine months ago a year ago, that this race would turn on the economy unless -- . and the unless being what we always know, which is things happen abroad. and what we see going on, all the protests in the middle east , as well as in africa, what's happening in afghanistan, you have both internal problems with the afghan security forces . you have this external breach of one of the most secure bases anywhere in the world, four americans dead. what's the chance that this could make a significant difference in this campaign?
>> the longer these things go on, it hurts the obama administration. but romney has to be careful how he handles it. we saw that with libya last week. that's the hitch. even if this keeps getting worse for the president, romney has to know how to handle it. and in a way that makes him look like a statesman.
>> the other thing out there right now is israel. prime minister benjamin netanyahu said over and over again he does not want to get involved in american politics . take a listen.
>> i'm not going to be drawn into the american election. what's guiding my statements is not the american political calendar but the iranian nuclear calendar. it's really not a partisan political issue.
>> mark s that believable? here 50 days from the election. what is he doing here?
>> that's not inconsistent for netanyahu. that's the sort of language we've seen from him for a long time and the sort of very forceful, aggressive behavior tactics and strategy. i do think that given the events of the last week or so that people are a little rattled. so they are looking for leadership. they're looking for somebody to kind of calm the waters, to provide a policy of vision to gives them some sense of balance as we're going through these events in the middle east . so it is an opportunity for mitt romney , i think.
>> well, is it an opportunity for mitt romney ? and i think that to mark's point, when you get to a point like this, whether it's with the economy, nick, or you get to a situation where we have these multiple events going on overseas, there's this sense of unrest that voters can tend to feel. i wonder if it doesn't just affect the undecided voters but also those who thought they were decided but might be willing to switch teams.
>> i think there is definitely an opportunity there. i remember richard holbrooke telling me before he died that essentially obama was betting his presidency on his afghan policy. essentially that afghan policy, the surge, i think in retrospect, was a mistake. the president blew it. he tripled the number of troops in afghanistan and just yesterday we had the biggest loss of aircraft because of an attack since the vietnam war . and yet romney isn't able to capitalize on that kind of issue because every time he does speak about foreign policy , he seems to commit a gaffe. and so i think the president has been able to in a sense protect himself from his own mistakes by this perception that romney just a neophyte on foreign policy .
>> one quick question to all of you. on a scale of 1 to 10 given where we are right now, how important is this first debate coming up?
>> a 7.
>> 7, really?
>> 10? what do you think, jackie?
>> i'm going to take the middle ground and say 8 1/2.
>> we're going to see. we'll watch the polls and watch the daebts. we'll talk about it a lot leading up to it. what a great conversation. great to have you all on the program.