Romney stays on message in Poland after UK, Israel missteps

Romney stays on message in Poland after UK, Israel missteps

By NBC News staff and wire reports

Updated 7:17 a.m. ET: WARSAW, Poland — Capping a weeklong foreign trip, Mitt Romney on Tuesday praised the people of Poland for marching toward “economic liberty and smaller government” rather than “heeding the false promise of a government-dominated economy.”

In a speech Tuesday in Poland’s capital, Warsaw, the Republican presidential candidate also lauded Poland for its higher living standards and strong military.

The presumptive Republican nominee’s thee-country trip had been intended to project the image of a leader ready to stand on the world’s stage but has been sidelined somewhat over alleged missteps in Britain and Israel.

Romney’s comments in Poland fit into his campaign’s themes of smaller government, reduced federal spending and fewer regulations on business. He says Poland is thriving because it sought to “stimulate innovation, attract investment, expand trade and live within its means.”

Romney said Poland’s success was a reminder that “free enterprise can propel an economy and transform a society.”

Earlier Tuesday, Romney met with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. The two men discussed the longstanding ties between the two nations as well as the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.

Poland has also been a significant contributor to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“On behalf of our countrymen, I express deep appreciation for your willingness to fight with us, to stand with us, and to be our friends in times of crisis and military conflict,” Romney said.

“Poland has excellent ties with the United States, regardless of which American party is in power,” Sikorski said. “We remember Ronald Reagan’s warm feelings for Poland’s Solidarity and also the fact that we joined (NATO) during Bill Clinton’s term.”

The two-day trip to Poland is aimed at Polish-American and Catholic voters in the United States and highlighted Romney’s stance toward Russia. He has labeled Russia as America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe,” a characterization that’s not unwelcome in a country that still fears Russia. Poles generally have been skeptical of President Barack Obama’s “reset” with Russia, and Romney has cited Polish concerns in his criticism of Obama.

As a former Soviet Bloc nation that has been subjugated by bigger European powers throughout history, Poland remains particularly worried about Russian policy.

Romney received words of encouragement on his visit to Poland on Monday from Lech Walesa, a former union leader and ex-Polish president, who said: “I wish you to be successful because this success is needed for the United States of course, but for Europe and the rest of the world too. Governor Romney, get your success. Be successful.”

But Solidarity, the union led by Walesa in the 1980s that helped topple communism in Poland, distanced itself from Romney, who it said “supported attacks on trade unions and employees’ rights.”

Romney angers Palestinians Earlier, Romney was forced to fight off controversy after he called Jerusalem the Israeli capital and said later that differences in culture powered Israel’s economic success compared with the Palestinians.

Both comments angered Palestinian leaders, just days after Romney annoyed Britons during a stop in London by questioning their readiness to host the Olympic Games.

However, Romney’s comments on Sunday about Jerusalem prompted a strong response.

The Palestinians want to establish a capital in east Jerusalem, captured and annexed by Israel in 1967. Most of the world, including the United States, does not recognize the annexation. Every U.S. administration since Lyndon Johnson has decided to keep the American embassy in Tel Aviv.

But on Sunday, Romney said flat out that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and strongly suggested he would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem if he were president, supporting two key Israeli demands.

The fate of Jerusalem is one of the main sticking points in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will not give up any part of the city, taking a harder line than two of his predecessors who were ready to discuss partition.

Previous U.S. presidential candidates, including then-Sen. Obama in June 2008, have referred to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital ahead of elections, only to row back when taking power and suggest the issue should be resolved by negotiations.

Seeking American Jewish and fundamentalist Christian votes, Romney has criticized Obama on Israel, alleging last year that the president had “thrown Israel under a bus” in pushing hard for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

In 2008, Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote, a lead into which Romney’s campaign would love to make inroads.

Romney points to ‘culture’ gap Romney pointed to the big difference in wealth between Israel and the Palestinians and suggested Israel’s culture was the reason for the gap.

“If you could learn anything from the economic history of the world, it’s this: culture makes all the difference,” he told a fundraising event in Jerusalem.

The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat said that Romney’s comments amounted to “a racist statement that shows a lack of knowledge.”

He added, “Everyone knows that the Palestinians cannot reach their full potential given the Israeli restrictions imposed on them.”

A senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rdeineh, said Romney’s statements were unhelpful, stood in the way of a peace settlement and “contradict the previous positions held by the American administration.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a chief Romney foreign policy surrogate, appeared to differ with Romney even as he tried to defend him.

“I am sure that Gov. Romney was not talking about difference in cultures, or difference in anybody superior or inferior,” McCain said Monday in Tampa, Fla. “What I’m sure Gov. Romney was talking was that the Israeli economy has grown and prospered in a dramatic fashion. And unfortunately, the Palestinians have not had that same economic development.”

McCain continued: “And that goes to the leadership of the Palestinians. … And we also know that the Palestinian people have not been blessed with the kind of government that has lower regulations, less taxes, entrepreneurship, which have caused the Israeli economy to be one of the world’s most successful. It has nothing to do with cultures. It has nothing to do with superiority or inferiority.”

NBC News staff, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Planetary Overview for the Month of March


March 1, 2011

Uranus in Aries

2011 has started on a dramatic note due to the freedom movements in the Arab world and the devastating earthquake in New Zealand. The powerful shaking in these vastly different parts of the world may be seen as foreshocks of bigger changes to come. The year began with a Solar Eclipse on January 4, followed by expansive Jupiter’s entry into independent Aries on January 22, and the New Moon in revolutionary Aquarius conjunct assertive Mars on February 2. Spikes of surprise and uncertainty shake us but instead of holding on tightly to what we know  the astrological message is to relax and loosen up to adapt to the waves of change to come.

On March 11 revolutionary re-enters Aries, inciting seven years of innovation and liberation. We may feel strange in a shifting reality where old enmities may reach their breaking points so that new alliances may be born. Union busting in Wisconsin and Indiana, for example, are the inevitable results of America’s turn to the right epitomized by Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980. Certainly, the short-term results of these conflicts will effect U.S. elections but these may only be interim steps in a greater political transformation that transcend party lines. Al Qaida was perceived as the leading anti-government force in Egypt yet events have bypassed the fundamentalist organization, at least for now. Other as yet unknown forces will arise in the U.S. and elsewhere to radically shift the course of history.

On March 20 the Sun enters Aries where it will join Uranus the following day. Aggressive Mars, Aries’ traditional ruling planet, moves into pioneering Aries on April 1, throwing another log on the fires of freedom and discovery. There are periods when time seems to speed up and this is one of them. Some people are exhilarated by the ride but most of us are threatened when the speed of shifting circumstances outpaces our ability to assimilate them. Nonetheless, slowing down the tides of change is not possible and attempting to increase inner velocity may only add to a sense of chaos.

One key to functioning effectively under the rising influence of Uranus and these other dynamic planetary shifts is flexibility. Recognizing that there are breakthroughs to be discovered frees us from the limits of current knowledge, habits and expectations. Uranus shatters the old mirror of reality, which is usually a painful experience, yet the scattered shards of broken glass lead our eyes in unfamiliar directions. More supple perspectives allow us to find truth in unexpected places, which is where we are heading. The capacity to flex our bodies, minds and spirits to bend around the hard corners of the old reality makes us avatars of a new one and creative participants in the next phase of human evolution rather than victims of unforeseen changes.