'Betting against America' hypocrisy

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Recent Democratic attacks against Mitt Romney, denouncing him as someone who has been "betting against America," are hypocritical, eager as the Obama administration is to surrender U.S. sovereignty through agreements such as the Law of the Sea Treaty, as well as to providing foreign aid to anti-American regimes. Even more, this campaign tactic risks alienating our allies, hurting global markets and reviving protectionism against foreign trade.

In these attacks, President Obama's campaign sounds not like the hopeful candidate of 2008, but like the populist Pat Buchanan of 1992, who campaigned against free trade, foreign investment and close ties with our strongest allies, including Great Britain and Israel.

A staple of recent Democratic charges has been that Romney's investments in other countries -- even those made through a blind trust -- indicate that he is unpatriotic.

This is a populist and demagogic charge which, if carried to its logical conclusion, would lead us to think that no patriot would ever invest in a foreign company or an American one with overseas entanglements. No real American, accordingly, should invest in Apple, which produces its iPhones in China, or McDonald's, which has restaurants in more than 100 countries, or Caterpillar, which sells farm equipment across the globe.

If that is true, then I expect the Obamas to disinvest immediately from their holdings in the Vanguard 500 Index Fund, which holds stock in all of these companies. I would also expect that the president would ban the sale of his memoirs overseas, since continuing to do so would mean that foreigners are making money from an American product that should be made exclusively in the United States.

Isn't it "betting against America" to let "Dreams from My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope" be translated, as they have been, into more than 25 languages, earning profits for foreign translators, publishing houses and booksellers?

While Obama's books are a minor issue, his foreign policy measures are not.

The Obama administration, despite calls from conservatives in Congress, has continued "betting against America" through supporting aid to Russia ($500 million in FY2010), Sudan ($870 million), and even millions to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, which continues to launch rockets at Israel.

Compared to these "investments" in our enemies' infrastructure, a few million dollars in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda or Switzerland seems not worthy of mention, given that these territories -- two British colonies and a democratic nation in the heart of Europe -- are capitalist, pro-American and pose no threat to the U.S.

The irony of this line of thinking is astonishing. In Obama's world view, it is legitimate and appropriate to send taxpayers' money overseas, propping up anti-American regimes and enriching foreign dictators. It is also perfectly fine for the president himself to make money on foreign book sales. On the other hand, it is "betting against America" for an individual U.S. citizen or company to send private money, invested privately, to friendly foreign countries, in hopes of making profits for American citizens and companies.

While Obama's logic may seem strange, this does emanate from the same president that told small businessmen that they didn't build their enterprises, less than three years after shamelessly accepting a Nobel Peace Prize for no obvious reason, and whose only admitted failure is not taking the time during his first term to sufficiently "inspire" the American people.

Far from discouraging investment in foreign countries, by demonizing Romney and others who do so, the president should lead the way in reforming our tax code to reward innovation, including lowering corporate tax rates to improve our competitiveness.

Obama should also embrace expanded free trade with our commercial partners, rather than stonewalling, as he did for two and a half years on trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama -- three close allies -- until even Democratic leaders pressured him to allow ratification in 2011.

If U.S. investors, companies and the government follow Obama's investment advice (although not his practice) and end all foreign entanglements, it could lead to an international trade war (as nations raise tariffs against foreigners), the collapse of international banking (with all U.S. dollars withdrawn back home), bewilderment on the part of our allies and trading partners, and, at best, a severe global recession.

Words matter, and the current words employed by the Obama campaign against Romney are as misguided as they have been ineffective.

Fortunately, the failure of these attacks to move the polls and the welcome arrival of the Olympics -- with its ability to consume the airwaves -- hopefully means the end to the phrase "betting against America." Unfortunately, in his policies, President Obama continues to practice what he is denouncing -- providing economic aid to our enemies, exhibiting indifference to our allies, and undertaking international measures that weaken this nation.

Dr. Wayne H. Bowen, professor and chairman of the Department of History at Southeast Missouri State University, is also a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.

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