Six International Newspaper Columnists Who Actually Like Mitt Romney
The Republican candidate has boosters in unlikely places -- from Canada to the Congo.
It's become one of the most unassailable truisms of the 2012 campaign season: Mitt Romney is likely to be the least-favorite favorite -- the most forlorn frontunner -- to win the Republican nomination for president (or, as the National Review's Rich Lowry put it this week, the candidate of "Eh, I guess"). The foreign press has picked up on the theme as well. "Romney: The Candidate That No One Loves," Austria's Die Presse proclaimed in a stinging post-Super Tuesday headline. Congratulations on the wins, Mitt!
It’s become one of the most unassailable truisms of the 2012 campaign season: Mitt Romney is likely to be the least-favorite favorite — the most forlorn frontunner — to win the Republican nomination for president (or, as the National Review‘s Rich Lowry put it this week, the candidate of "Eh, I guess"). The foreign press has picked up on the theme as well. "Romney: The Candidate That No One Loves," Austria’s Die Presse proclaimed in a stinging post-Super Tuesday headline. Congratulations on the wins, Mitt!
Yes, as we’ve chronicled before, news outlets in countries as diverse as China, France, Germany, Iran, Mexico, and Russia have lashed out at Romney for his hawkish stances on Russian aggression, European socialism, Iranian nuclear ambitions, Chinese economic policy, and illegal immigration. And there’s certainly more venom out there to survey. In recent months, Mexican columnist María Antonieta Collins has declared that Romney’s "arrogance" about the poor makes her "sick," South Korean political science professor Moon Chung-in has warned that a President Romney could escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula, and Russian commentator Dmitry Babich has argued that Romney’s perception of the recent Russian presidential election "is no more realistic than Santorum’s vision of Dutch pensioners in the hands of euthanasia’s enthusiasts" — to name just a few examples.
But is any of the overseas coverage positive? It turns out there are columnists — some in unlikely places — who have expressed varying degrees of support for Romney. Here’s a look at six of the most interesting cases.
News outlet: The News International (Pakistan)
Where she stands: Haroon, a former editor of the News who is now based in New York, seems to admire the old northeastern moderate, not the conservative firebrand of the Republican primary season. In a column last month, she expressed support for something Romney has been distancing himself from on the campaign trail: the health-care reform legislation he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts. Romney shouldn’t be apologizing for trying to cover the uninsured, she argued, but he is, in an effort to placate the Republican base. In an op-ed for the News a week earlier, Haroon scolded Romney for saying he was "not concerned about the very poor." His "electoral focus is the middle class," she conceded, "but how can a presidential candidate dismiss an entire block of vulnerable citizens as being not important enough for his concern?"
Money quote: "Republicans build their campaign in the U.S. on the framework that government should not be in politics. We hear the same argument in Pakistan — especially by technocrats in Islamabad. But the fact remains, as Mr. Romney realized during his governorship, that social-welfare programs are essential for a government to remain relevant for the vulnerable and the poor. If a government cannot improve the lives of its masses, then what good is it?"
News outlet: National Post (Canada)
Where he stands: In a column last month, Kay asked why Americans haven’t warmed to Romney and ventured a guess: The former CEO of Bain Capital is a capitalist through and through, and Republican voters, despite their veneration of capitalism, are weary of creative destruction at a time of economic crisis, and receptive to "big-talking dreamers" such as "Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin." Kay added that he personally doesn’t think Romney is "some sort of monster." In 1996, "when the 14-year-old daughter of a Bain colleague went missing, Romney moved heaven and earth to get Bain people out on the street to look for the child," he noted with admiration. An op-ed around the same time in India’s the Hindu echoed Kay’s sentiments. "Now we have a candidate who wants to be president of a capitalist country and who is trying to explain to the public that he had to fire workers as a businessman, he cleverly pays lower taxes, and parks his money offshore," C. Gopinath, a U.S.-based professor, marveled.
Money quote: "Maybe Romney’s flat appeal has nothing to do with his personality, or speaking style, or ‘flip flops,’ or even his hair. Maybe Republicans are just leery about nominating a successful capitalist as their presidential candidate."
News outlet: Dong-a-Ilbo (South Korea)
Where he stands: Ha, an editorial writer, pointed out in February that the "U.S. political arena is considering [Romney] an acceptable Republican presidential candidate" and that Romney boasts a "Harvard MBA degree, has served as Massachusetts governor, headed the Salt Lake Winter Olympics Committee, and worked as CEO of Bain and Company." But his Mormonism, Ha added, could stand in the way of his bid for the presidency.
Money quote: "Romney lost to McCain in the 2008 Republican candidate race. Despite his stellar professional background, he could not overcome questions over his religion. Mormonism officially bans bigamy but certain fundamentalists still practice polygamy, causing negative views. Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who is also Mormon, withdrew from the race for the Republican presidential nomination and backed Romney. Are the American people ready to embrace a Mormon president? If they do, he could write a new chapter in American history."
News outlet: Direct!cd (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Where they stand: In a critique this month that’s more about Obama than Romney, the editors of a Congolese news website criticized the U.S. president for not raising concerns about the Congo’s elections in November, which were tainted by violence and allegations of electoral fraud and voter intimidation (the Obama administration did call on authorities to exercise "maximum openness and transparency"). The editors quoted Romney as exposing Obama’s silence and hypocrisy by asking the president why he didn’t defend democracy, though it’s unclear from the quote whether Romney was referring to the Congo specifically, and we can’t find the remarks in question. We’re surprised Congolese news outlets aren’t focusing more on Newt Gingrich, who, after all, wrote his 1971 doctoral thesis on Belgian education policy in the Congo.
Money quote: "Expressing the view held by a significant segment of his countrymen, Mitt Romney thinks that the current occupant of the White House must demonstrate that he remains connected to the roots of democracy and that he is ready to defend it anywhere and in all circumstances."
News outlet: Channel 4 News (Britain)
Where he stands: Frei is a reporter and analyst, not a commentator, but he tends to highlight Romney’s strengths more than other foreign correspondents covering the Republican race. This week, he urged Romney to tell voters more about his "compelling ‘journey’" even if it means talking more about his Mormon faith. He’s argued that Romney fought a "much better campaign" than "the combustible Newt Gingrich, the swashbuckling and hapless Rick Perry, or the prim extremist Rick Santorum," and ridiculed Gingrich for caricaturing Romney as a "job-cutting greedy venture capitalist" who speaks French. Still, he’s conceded that "Romney combines the looks of an award winning plastic surgeon with the bedside manner of an award-winning dental surgeon." We gather Frei hasn’t had good experiences with dental surgeons.
Money quote: "Romney may have been born to money and made lorry loads more. But despite his $250 million in the bank Mitt is the Mormon descendant of settlers who rolled their wagons from one bit of parched American earth to the next, who were prevailed on by their profits to move on as soon as they had began to feel prosperous and comfortable. Dogged determination is part of his DNA. After all, part of his apprenticeship as a Mormon priest was to spend two years in France trying to convert Frenchmen to the teachings of the Latter Day Saints. That can’t have been easy."
News outlet: Arutz Sheva (Israel)
Where he stands: In a column in January for the pro-settler news outlet, Jager, an Israeli military veteran, argued that it’s time the Republicans rally behind Romney — in his eyes, the candidate who has the best chance of beating Obama and creating jobs. Other Arutz Sheva op-eds have praised Romney for his stances on Iran and Israel, though the former mayor of the West Bank town of Shiloh endorsed Gingrich’s approach to Israel over Romney’s.
Money quote: "This may sound cynical, but there is no perfect or ideal candidate. Center stage does not mean that Mitt Romney has no principles; it means that to run [America] you cannot be to the very left or to the very right. Obama has been trying to run [America] to the ground from the very left. Mitt Romney will run his presidency from center stage. Mitt Romney will be the president of all Americans and not just those who belong to the Republican Party. This is the essence of having the broadest appeal and being electable on Election Day."
Uri Friedman is a former deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @UriLF
More from Foreign Policy
Chinese Hospitals Are Housing Another Deadly Outbreak
Authorities are covering up the spread of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia.
Henry Kissinger, Colossus on the World Stage
The late statesman was a master of realpolitik—whom some regarded as a war criminal.
The West’s False Choice in Ukraine
The crossroads is not between war and compromise, but between victory and defeat.
Washington wants to get tough on China, and the leaders of the House China Committee are in the driver’s seat.