NOW with Alex Wagner | October 08, 2012
>> today, megan m mccartell from newsweek and the daily beast , vice president and executive editor of msnbc.com richard wolf , and from washington, pulitzer prize winning correspondent for the huffington post david wood and susan glasser . mitt romney wrapped up what the campaign billed as a major foreign policy speech with a grandiose title "the mantle of leadership." he compared peace through strength to that of truman, reagan and george marshall . he criticized president obama for chris stevens in failing to prevent the attack and the response.
>> i want to be clear. the blame for the murder of our people in libya and attacks on embassies in other countries lies solely with those who carried them out, no one else. but it is our responsibility and the responsibility of the president to use america 's greatest power to shape history. not to lead from behind. leaving our destiny at the mercy of events. unfortunately, that's exactly where we find ourselves in the middle east under president obama .
>> more broadly, romney boiled down the president's foreign policy to one of hope.
>> i know the president hoped for a more prosperous middle east aligned with us. i share this hope. but hope is not a strategy. we can't support our friends and defeat our enemies in the middle east when words rbt backed up by deeds. when defense spending the being cut. when we have no trade agenda to speak of and our strategy isn't one of partnership but of passive ti.
>> on actual foreign policy his specifics were thin amounting to deepening critical cooperation and reaffirming historic ties. susan glasser , your overall assessment of mitt romney ? there was no shortage of criticism for the president. what did you make of the prescriptions romney was laying out?
>> thanks, alex. you made an important point to say this isn't necessarily a fully formed recipe for what a rom uh any administration would look like. he's seeking to gain a campaign advantage over president obama rather than outline a fully formed foreign policy . i think you didn't see that today. in fact, in many ways it's still not clear whether there is much of a difference in a policy sense between barack obama and mitt romney .
>> dave wood , our war correspondent extraordinaire there will be talk affidavit war in afghanistan . mitt romney had words about the president's treatment of iraq. let's focus on the afghanistan question. it's the 11-year anniversary of the war, yesterday, i believe. mitt romney had an interesting romneyesque take on afghanistan saying he would pursue a real and successful transition to the afghan security forces by the end of 2014 and goes on to say outlining an exit date is pricely the misstep the president made. let's play that sound if we have it.
>> in afghanistan , i will pursue a real and successful transition to afghan security forces by the end of 2014 . president obama would have you believe anyone who disagrees with his decisions in afghanistan is arguing for endless war . but the route to war and to potential attacks at home is a politically timed retreat that abandons the afghan people to the same extremists who aravaged their country. i will evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders.
>> to me that sounds like mitt romney is suggesting he'll do exactly what the president is doing. do you have a different interpretation?
>> i didn't. i tried to look at the speech through the eyes of a combat soldier. the most interesting thing he said, i thought, was ha hope is not a strategy, but rhetoric isn't either. it was a gigantic missed opportunity to outline really finite fundamental and specific strategies for dealing with the problems he so ably described. in afghanistan , for example, there is a real mess there in the sense that negotiations clearly aren't going to happen. we're not training the afghans fast enough to really pick up after 2014 when we are supposed to have withdrawn combat troops. there is no plan for what happens after december 2014 and the whole thing has fallen into a messy, bloody stalemate. i was looking to romney to provide some glimmer of a way out of that. whether it was endorsing fast track negotiations, whatever it was. i was looking for a plan. i didn't find it there or other things he mentioned. the one specific thing he mentioned about the middle east after calling for a new national security strategy there was to say he would have all u.s. aid funneled through one official.
>> richard wolf , i tried to under line in my copy of the speech the moments when it was a period where mitt romney might say something substantive but i found it lacking. i will put the leaders of iran on notice that the u.s. and our friends and allies will prevent e them from acquiring nuclear weapons , i will deepen critical cooperation with partners in the gulf. not a lot here that isn't stuff that's already been floated. these are positions the president, i think would agree should be taken.
>> if you are going to unveil ab address at this point you better have the goods. never mind next week's foreign policy debate with the president. this mitt romney needs to debate the old mitt romney as well. on each of these things he's taken the opposite position. there's an extended criticism of the president's take on syria , for instance. yet this is the same mitt romney who also said getting involved with libya would be mission creep . he opposed that in one country and now proposes it somewhere else . the point of consistent for him is israel . to pa are a phrase joe biden every foreign policy sentence has a noun, verb and the word israel in it. when it comes to the actual position saying a president needs to be involved in the middle east , it's drifted, that's true about the peace process . this is the same mitt romney , i believe, who was taped talking about the 47% and said, you know, when it comes to the middle east it's never going to happen. i will leave it to the next guy.
>> we have that. let's listen to what mitt romney . almost literally said to kick the can down the road. this is part of the infamous 47% videotape taken surreptitiously in florida this year. let's listen to what he said about palestine.
>> i look at the palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of israel and these issues and i say there is just no way. so you move things along the best way you can, hope for some degree of stability but recognize this is going to remain an unsolved problem .
>> this is what he says today about israel and palestine.
>> i will recommit america to the goal of a democratic, prosperous palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the jewish state of israel e. on this issue the president has failed. what should be a negotiation has devolved into heated his disputes in the u.n. only a new president brings the chance to begin anew.
>> a new president who said i might not do anything differently. what do you make of this?
>> i'm in greet with secret romney .
>> on some things uh i would hope.
>> it's a hard problem . how many problems have tried to solve it? everyone since cart. no one has managed. i assume the next president whether it's barack obama again or mitt romney is probably not going to do it. this is the thing to do in speeches. we talk like we are the world's parent. the left says if we want china to say go for it on global warming or pull back on military expansionism we need to set an example. they will follow us. the republican version of this is the mean dad, right? we're going in there and we'll tell them they're grounded until they fix it. both are silly. we obviously have a strong leadership role but they are not looking at us for how to act. there is a limited amount of going out and being a shining star to the world with achieve. everyone has to say it.
>> megan prings up a good point about the mean dad, softish touch mom. we have talked before on the program. there is an awkward moment in terms of foreign policy . in terms of elucidating a line in the sand , if you will, between republican foreign policy and democratic foreign policy . there doesn't seem to be a lot of daylight on fundamental issues.
>> this is an important point. actually mitt romney is a bigamistry to us when it comes to foreign policy . in part because republicans are at war amongst themselves. they are not just fighting with barack obama and democrats over what kind of foreign policy e they should have. on the one hand within romney 's campaign you have neocon advisers who represent the soul and spirit of bush and cheney. you have tea party types who say let's focus on rebuilding our economy and america at home. and a third category of classic republican realists, if you will, who are more of the liberal internationalist variety. you have all these groups fighting for romney . amazing quotes even in the new york times today from a leading republican foreign policy advocate saying basically, well, we don't know which one romney is. we'd like to say would the real mitt romney stand up. that's from his allies. there is no wonder we are confused about his policies. he has not yet resolved tension within the team.
>> that same piece has unnamed romney advisers saying they have talked with him so little on national security he doesn't know where he stands. he's gone around the world in terms of his position on things. i want to talk about the iran question. romney said, i will put the leaders of iran on notice that the u.s. and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuk already lar weapons capability. i will refer you back to an abc interview september 14 where george stephanopoulos asks mitt romney about the red line and how his is different from the president's. let's play that sound.
>> what is your red line with iran ?
>> iran may not have a nuclear weapon .
>> president obama said exactly the same thing. he said it's unacceptable for iran to have a nuclear weapon . your red line is the same?
>> i laid out what i would do to keep iran from reaching the red line .
>> but the red line going forward is the same.
>> yes. recognize when one says it is unacceptable to the united states of america that means what it says.
>> dave, what do you make of this? specifically from the perspective of those in service to this country, those seeing the theater of war and are in combat. this back and forth over a question that amounts to will we send troops to iran to prevent them from getting a nuclear a weapon.
>> syria as well. i was interested to see governor romney backed off from the idea of sending american weapons to the rebels in syria . he said we'd see to it they would obtain weapons. on the larger point you're right. there is no overlying strategy here to tie in, you know, whatever red line he defines in iran and what we do in syria and how we coordinate with israel in making sure iran doesn't obtain nuclear weapons . if i was a combat troop i would be worried. here is the guy who wants to be president of the united states who is not outlining a general strategy. where does this all fit in? how does it tie together? to be fair, i don't think the president has done that either.
>> the question of the thin red line is something everybody's dancing over and around. thank you to dave wood and foreign policy magazine 's susan glasser . great to have you on the show.
>>> after the break, as the race tightens governor romney and president obama show signs of shifting strategies. the governor uh adopts the mantra of a critically acclaimed tv series .
>> i miss that show. we'll examine the softer side of romney with clear eyes and full hearts next. i've worked