That’s what Joel Mowbray has to say after seeing Governor Romney speak–not here in DC, but in Israel. Via Power Line:
Of all the speakers this past week at the Herzliya Conference, Israel’s premier counterterrorism and security gathering, no one dazzled ‘em like presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Other White House wannabes, including John McCain and John Edwards, also made appearances, but they spoke via satellite, whereas Romney was in the flesh. But that alone cannot explain the stark disparity in performance.
As anyone who’s seen Romney knows, he cuts an impressive physical presence, he’s charming and can deliver a hokey line with the best of them. What I had not seen from him before, though, was any real indication that he had more than a passing knowledge of foreign policy or a decent handle on the global struggle in which we are engaged.
After what I witnessed, however, it’s hard not to be a Romney cheerleader.
What was most extraordinary was how clearly Romney articulated the nature of the common enemy Israel and the United States both face. It was, by far, the most remarkable speech on the topic given by an American politician of either party, on television or in person.
One line in particular captures how thoroughly Romney understands our jihadist enemies: “Contrary to the Baker-Hamilton Commission, resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict will not magically mollify the jihadists.”
Don’t let the clever phrasing hide the serious message. The origins of modern Islamic fundamentalism long precede the creation of the Jewish state of Israel, and Palestinians merely serve as convenient propaganda to rile the masses. And as the world has seen, radical Islamic propaganda can be found just about anywhere: ultimately untrue stories about the flushing of a Qur’an, quoting a medieval scholar, or even cartoons. Romney gets that.
It’s not just that Romney strongly supports Israel—that would hardly distinguish him in American politics—it’s that his support is rooted, at least in part, in a textured comprehension of Islamic fundamentalism. For proof, read the next few paragraphs of Romney’s remarks:
“No, what we should have realized since 9/11 is that what the world regarded as an Israeli-Arab conflict over borders represented something much larger. It was the oldest, most active front of the radical Islamist jihad against the entire West. It therefore was not really about borders. It was about the refusal of many parts of the Muslim world to accept Israel’s right to exist – within any borders.
“This distinction came into vivid focus this summer. The war in Lebanon had little to do with the Palestinians. And it had nothing to do with a two-state solution. It demonstrated that Israel is now facing a jihadist front that from Tehran through Damascus to Southern Lebanon and Gaza.
“As Tony Blair astutely put it, Hizbullah was not fighting ‘for the coming into being of a Palestinian state…but for the going out of being of an Israeli state.’
“Yet we have still not fully absorbed the magnitude of the change. As far as our enemies are concerned, there is just one conflict. And in this single conflict, the goal of destroying Israel is simply a way station toward the real goal of subjugating the entire West.”
On the topic of the most pernicious present threat, Iran, Romney also offered a coherent strategy for nonviolently combating Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. He laid out a 5-point plan that included economic and diplomatic isolation of the regime, prodding Arab states to lock arms with the West, and working with “progressive” Muslims in Iran and elsewhere to “defeat radical Islam.”
Like many, I believed that Romney’s Mormon faith would be an electoral deal-breaker, especially with evangelical Christians who dominate GOP primaries in the South. That still may prove true. But unless his competitors are able to discuss our battle against radical Islam with as much aplomb as Romney displayed in Herzliya, the former Massachusetts governor could easily stake out a leadership position on the single most important issue facing America.
That alone might not result in victory, but it will certainly help Romney make it further than many now believe is possible.
Hat tip: reader Carol.