December 3, 2022

Democrats - and the media - regret their chuckles from a decade ago

Mitt Romney with Sunny Mindel at Bricco’s restaurant in Boston, July 28, 2004. (Photo: Ken Kurson for The Media Globe)

Let’s travel together to a time long ago. Just under 10 years ago, actually.

On March 26, 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Wolf Blitzer on CNN, “Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world’s worst actors. The idea that [President Barack Obama] has some more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling, indeed.”

President Obama, Vice President Biden, former Secretary of State Clinton, and former presidential candidate John Kerry immediately pounced on Romney’s “gaffe,” asserting that his Cold War mentality revealed how out of touch he was. Biden observed, “Governor Romney is mired in a Cold War mindset.”

In the final presidential debate, Obama dunked on Romney: “When you were asked, ‘What’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America,’ you said ‘Russia’. Not al-Qaeda. you said Russia. And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back – because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

The criticism of Romney the fuddy-duddy was universally applauded by the media, who dubbed Obama’s zinger as one of the finest moments of any of the debates.

And now … not so much.

California Democrat Ted Lieu just said on CNN, “This action by Putin further confirms that Mitt Romney was right when he called Russia the number one geopolitical foe.”

in 2012, Obama’s chief advisor, David Axelrod said Romney was in a “time warp.” Last week, Axelrod told his CNN colleague Briana Keilar that those clips of unanimous media howling over Romney’s supposed obsolescence had not “aged well.”

To his credit, Axelrod didn’t leave it at that. “Russia is a malign force, and it’s especially, given some of the tools they have now … they are a major, major problem … And we’re going to experience the impact of that for some time. So, yeah, looking back, [Putin] is a problem. And, you know, there’s no other way to look at it. Romney had a point.”

Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.

CNN’s Chris Cillizza has conceded that Democrats and the media erred in dismissing Romney’s warning. In a column on Tuesday entitled “It’s time to admit it: Mitt Romney was right about Russia,” CNN’s Politics Editor-at-large, wrote:

“Obama cast himself as the candidate who understood the current threats – led by al Qaeda. Romney was the candidate still stuck in the Cold War age, a black-and-white figure in a colorful – and complex – world. But today, after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into eastern Ukraine, Romney’s comments look very, very different. And by ‘different,’ I mean ‘right,’ as even some Democrats are now acknowledging.”

Romney lost the 2012 presidential race. And like all elections, that one had consequences. Obama had been overheard promising then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier that year, “This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility.” Somehow that overt promise, captured and recorded on a hot mic, seemed not to damage President Obama even a bit. Putin took a chunk of Georgia in 2008, when President Bush was in office. He took all of Crimea and parts of the Donbas in 2014 when Obama was in office. He is currently invading the rest of Ukraine right this minute, with President Biden seemingly powerless to stop him.

And yet it was President Trump who was investigated for two years—with uncountable hours of television time, colossal legal bills and hassles for hundreds of side players, and the awarding of several Pulitzer Prizes—and was nearly felled by the “soft on Russia” narrative. That’s the power of a media that acts in tandem with a particular ideology.

Lieu and Axelrod deserve credit for having the integrity to acknowledge they were wrong in 2012. With the total failure of the Mueller Report to find any meaningful collusion with Russia, and the Durham bombshells proving that the origin of the Russia hoax was pure political dirty tricks, one can only wonder if it’ll take ten years before a few brave Democrats and journalists come forward to admit about RussiaGate what they’re now admitting about Romney: They were wrong.