By Dmitry Babich
President Obama’s decision to endorse same-sex marriages (and not just civil unions) gave the American presidential race a new twist, presenting a serious challenge to Mr. Obama’s likeliest adversary – the GOP’s “presumptive candidate” Mitt Romney.
“I think, everything will depend on the reaction of Romney and the GOP at large to this move, which looks like a provocation from Obama’s side,” commented Mikhail Delyagin, the head of the Moscow-based Institute for Globalization Studies. “Obama knows that the majority of people would not approve of a same-sex marriage for their children, but at the same time he knows that quite normal people can be scared by radical homophobia. So, his bet is that the attacks against this move of his from the side of Mr. Romney will be so monstrous, that they will ultimately scare the centrist voters away from Romney and the GOP.”
This is indeed a risky bet, since a lot of analysts believe that centrist voters, quite on the contrary, could now tilt away from Obama. In the opinion of these experts, keeping the status quo would be a better solution for Obama, since the liberal-minded people would not vote for Romney anyway and moderate supporters of new lifestyles had already been won for Obama by his decision to end the ban on openly gay people in the military.
So, everything will depend on Romney’s reaction now – will he be subtle enough to find a non-aggressive, non-divisive use for the chink in Obama’s armor that the president deliberately left open for him? Romney’s handling of this election’s foreign policy agenda, more important from a Russian point of view, does not speak in favor of the Massachusetts’ former governor. It appears that Romney’s penchant for aggressive, non-apologetic rhetoric may indeed do him a disservice – and not for the first time.
Mr. Romney’s record for subtlety was certainly not improved by his statement to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe” in March. A lot of observers, including some in Russia, dismissed Mr. Romney’s statement as election posturing, advising the Russian public not to take it seriously. Indeed, a phrase about Russia’s “fighting every cause for the world’s worst actors” does not stand up to any kind of criticism, even if a critic sticks to the official American ideology. Even the New York Times in its editorial had to concede that Russia’s aid to the American-led coalition in Afghanistan and Russia’s abstention during a vote on an anti-Ghaddafi UN resolution do not fit Mr. Romney’s theory. But was it really just electoral posturing?
If indeed it was, then why did Romney refuse to retract any of the outlandish accusations against Russia and Obama that he made in his interview to CNN? Why instead did he prefer to write a whole article for the Foreign Policy magazine, where he complained about president Medvedev’s “attacks” against him? Foreign Policy
(As if the president of a country declared a “number one geopolitical foe” of the world’s biggest nuclear power should find nothing but praise for the author of such a declaration.) Why did then Romney continue the same rhetoric about “pliant” Obama trying to “ingratiate” himself with the Kremlin? Why weren’t any of Romney’s foreign policy advisers, mostly the Bush-era neo-cons, fired? There were lots of opportunities to limit the damage, but Romney never used any of them. “No Apology: Believe in America” – that seems to be not just a name for Mr. Romney’s paperback, but his ideology in a nutshell.
For a wider world, the choice of America’s geopolitical friends and foes is certainly a more important issue than the intricacies of differences between same-sex marriages and same-sex unions. But there are situations when the world’s destiny can be decided by such seemingly abstract issues. “If indeed Romney and his people come to power, the foreign policy team of George Bush Jr. will look like children in comparison,” warns Sergei Rogov, the head of the Institute of the United States and Canada, Russian Academy of Sciences. And everyone knows what Bush’s team managed to “achieve” in a relatively short period of time.
In this situation, the world may be served, paradoxically, by Romney’s duplicity, noted by Nicole Bacharan, a French author of a book on American elections. “When elected the governor of the state of Massachusetts, Romney introduced on the state level a health insurance system, which ran against the Republican rhetoric and which became a model for Obama’s health care reform in 2011 – something that Romney now denies,” Nicole Bacharan wrote in her recent comment for the Paris-based Le Figaro, stating that there has always been a wide gap between Romney’s statements and his actual policies. Hopefully, Romney indeed did not mean what he said when he spoke about Russia’s “hostility” or the need to support Israel’s possible strike against Iran. But the world’s security is probably too serious a matter to be made dependent on one person’s duplicity.