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Phoniness and Diplomacy

Ramesh Ponnuru touches on something that occurred to me yesterday:

Funny, also, that the press is tearing into Romney for not being phony enough.

Following the news yesterday, I was struck by how several of Romney’s missteps were the result of his saying true things that he ought to have known not to say publicly. This ranges from the pedestrian (his comments on preparations for the Olympics) to the somewhat important (mentioning his meeting with the head of MI6). What makes these missteps such perfect targets for mockery is that Romney has repeatedly insisted that any criticism of a friendly government ought to be made in private and nowhere else. According to Romney’s inane standard for managing international relationships, any public criticism is evidence of unacceptable distance between the U.S. and the other government, and he often takes such criticism as proof that the U.S. has recently been “snubbing” or “insulting” that government. Then again, there is a real difference between stating the policy of the U.S. government even when it differs from the position of a friendly government and needlessly stepping on the toes of one’s hosts at a moment when they are the focus of significant international attention. The first is important for the conduct of any state’s foreign policy, and the latter is just bad form.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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