Romney's remark wasn't a gaffe
The Kansas City Star
Mitt Romney’s foreign trip was supposedly gaffe-filled. But from where I sit, the media coverage strained to make much ado about very little. Romney’s remarks about the London Olympics were impolite but hardly earth-shaking. There WERE aspects that were disconcerting.
The press is in a huff because a Romney staffer snapped at a reporter and said, “Kiss my ass.” Well, waa. It isn’t hard to blame him, given the snarky coverage.
But the bigger deal is the continuing hubub over Romney’s remarks about Palestinian culture. He noted that while Israel has prospered, the Palestinians have stagnated. “Culture makes all the difference,” he said.
Bull’s eye. The Palestinians have been trying to blow up Israelis for decades, and now they complain that the Israelis have stopped hiring them or buying whatever goods they produce. As John Podhoretz notes, American taxpayers have shoveled billions into the Palestinian Authority with little effect on the well-being of the average Palestinian. What they’ve built, according to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is not a functioning, prosperous state, but a “chronic kleptocracy.”
In an oped for National Review, Romney rightly refused to back away from his remarks. What accounts for prosperity “if not for culture?” he writes. Israel and the United States have freedom and it breeds prosperity. In the land controlled by the Palestinians, freedom is severely curtailed.
Some have argued that Romney’s remark was racist, but such differences in outcome have nothing to do with race. Romney: “The linkage between freedom and economic development has a universal applicability. One only has to look at the contrast between East and West Germany, and between North and South Korea for the starkest demonstrations of the meaning of freedom and the absence of freedom.”
At the root of this flap is the tendency of people on the left to avoid any mention of culture because it veers dangerously toward the forbidden zone of contemporary life. That is, it sounds “judgemental.” But if we can’t make judgements about such things, we can’t adequately diagnose the problems that hold back not only other societies, but our own. Romney was absolutely right: Culture makes all the difference.