James Joyner evaluates Romney’s claim about Reagan and the end of the hostage crisis:
Those who have studied the negotiations since–and presumably had the ability to talk to some on the Iranian side–have since concluded that there’s little to no evidence that the incoming president’s foreign policy was a significant factor. But there’s no reason on earth Romney should know that [bold mine-DL].
And it’s quite likely, indeed, that the timing of the release was chosen by the Iranians to give the least possible amount of satisfaction and credit to the hated Jimmy Carter, who had given sanction to the Shah during his dying days.
So James is saying that Romney is merely ignorant on this point rather than being dishonest? I suppose that’s an improvement as far as Romney and foreign policy rhetoric are concerned, but that’s not saying much. It may be slightly better that Romney is just circulating a popular myth instead of creating his own fabrication. Even so, it’s still misleading and untrue. If the release of the hostages was secured by difficult diplomatic negotiation carried out by members of the Carter administration, and it had essentially nothing to do with Reagan, Romney is drawing the wrong lesson from this event, and he is adding to the increasingly ridiculous hagiographical treatment that modern Republicans give Reagan. Romney said, “There’s a reason why the Iranians released the hostages on the same day and at the same hour that Reagan was sworn in.” Apparently, the reason was that the Iranians wanted to maximize Carter’s humiliation and deprive him of any credit for the negotiations that secured their release.
It’s rather unreasonable to expect our presidential candidates to consult with teams of historians to get their post hoc, studied reactions to events.
It isn’t so unreasonable to expect that a presidential candidate would familiarize himself with a past event if he’s going to incorporate it into a major speech and the event happened over thirty years ago. It’s not as if Romney was giving an off-the-cuff answer at a press conference or out at a campaign event. This was a formal, prepared speech. Would we say that it’s unreasonable for presidential candidates to consult with economic and foreign policy experts before giving an address that includes a substantive claim that contradicts what the experts believe to be true? Our presidential campaigns would surely benefit from more historical perspective and accurate descriptions of the past, especially when presidential candidates want to use historical examples to help advance their policy agenda.