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September 6, 2012

Will Obama go on offensive about loose war talk?

On the eve of Barack Obama’s speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, it’s an open question as to how the President plans to frame the Iran debate.
At the Republican Convention last week, we heard loud and clear how Mitt Romney plans to differentiate himself from Obama: less talking to Iran, more talk about bombing Iran.
In his acceptance speech, he said of the President’s policy:

“…every American is less secure today because he has failed to slow Iran’s nuclear threat. In his first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran. We are still talking, and Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning.”

Romney’s website continues down the same path:

U.S. policy toward Iran must begin with an understanding on Iran’s part that a military option to deal with their nuclear program remains on the table. This message should not only be delivered through words, but through actions.

And although as Romney states that “time has shown that existing sanctions have not led the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear aspirations,” he still believes more sanctions are the answer (which does not necessarily separate him much from Obama):

As for Iran in particular, I will take every measure necessary to check the evil regime of the ayatollahs. Until Iran ceases its nuclear-bomb program, I will press for ever-tightening sanctions, acting with other countries if we can but alone if we must. I will speak out on behalf of the cause of democracy in Iran and support Iranian dissidents who are fighting for their freedom. I will make clear that America’s commitment to Israel’s security and survival is absolute.

So Romney is covering his bases.  Axis of Evil reference: check. Claiming to support the Iranian people: check. Calling for another round of sanctions that punish those very same people: check. Attacking diplomacy: check.  But if  his intentions truly reflect some of his rhetoric, Romney would take talks of the table–which only leaves war.
As to how Obama will respond, he has indeed called out those who engage in “loose talk of war” and has directly taken Romney to task on this:

Q: … And on Iran, Mitt Romney, on Sunday, went so far as to say that if you are re-elected, Iran will get a bomb and the world will change.  How do you respond to those criticisms?
THE PRESIDENT: … This is not a game.  There’s nothing casual about it.  And when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years, it indicates to me that that’s more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem.

But all of that was way back in March.  Whether he reframes the debate in those terms tonight or going forward is a different story.  For what it’s worth, Vice President Biden last week went on the attack, accusing Romney of being “ready to go to war in Iran and Syria.” But then again, those comments were missing from later iterations of the same speech—so this may have been Joe “getting ahead of his skis.”

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