Giving ‘leading from behind’ new meaning

Mitt Romney likes to talk about “American exceptionalism” and maintaining the United States’ role as “the undisputed leader of the world,” but I’m not sure if he knows quite what that means.

Ben Armbruster reports on the former governor’s latest thoughts on U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Now it seems that a President Romney will allow the Israeli government to decide American policy toward that country. The free daily newspaper Israel Hayom — a media outlet closely associated with right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — asked Romney if, as president, he would ever consider moving the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In his answer, Romney made some astonishing claims.

First, that his policy toward Israel will be guided by Israeli leaders; second, on the Jerusalem issue, he’d do whatever Israel tells him to do; and third, he does not think the United States should take a leadership role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That’s not an exaggeration. Romney vowed that his administration’s actions would be “recommended … by Israeli leaders,” and he’d “be inclined” to do whatever Israeli leaders thought “would be helpful to their efforts.” He added, “I don’t think America should play the role of the leader of the peace process,” instead ceding the leadership role to Israel.

This comes, by the way, about a week after Romney said he’d like to see China replace the United States as the global leader on international aid and humanitarian relief.

And the week before, Romney said he would “pursue” whatever course in Afghanistan military leaders told him to take.

No matter what one thinks of Romney’s presidential candidacy, as an objective matter, I think it’s fair to say “leadership” isn’t one of his strong points.