One day after the final presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the Romney campaign has released an ad attempting to capitalize on one of the few standout moments from Monday’s remarkably meme-free event in Boca Raton, Fla.
The 30-second spot is called “Apology Tour” and is little more than a clip of Romney at Monday night’s debate, trying to hammer home his oft-repeated mantra that the president early in his first term traveled overseas and apologized to world leaders for America’s behavior during the Bush years.
“The president began with an apology tour, of going to various nations and criticizing America,” Romney says in an excerpt from the foreign policy debate. “I think they looked at that and saw weakness.”
It’s a charge Romney has been bandying about since he won the Republican nomination this summer. “I will begin my presidency with the jobs tour,” he said during his acceptance speech. “President Obama began his with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No, Mr. President, America has freed other nations from dictators.”
However, independent fact-checkers such as PolitiFact and FactCheck.org are disputing Romney’s claim as an empty attempt to paint Obama as unpatriotic and weak on foreign policy. While the president did indeed give numerous speeches in the Middle East and elsewhere early in his term, he did not apologize to those nations -- nor mention the word “apology” -- according to fact-checking reports on CNN, Washington Post and elsewhere.
Instead, what Obama did was introduce himself to the leaders of the world, positioning himself as a president with a decidedly different viewpoint on foreign relations than that of his predecessor, which was, in fact, a point he campaigned on. Freshly elected, the new president spoke of repairing ties, building alliances and finding common ground, all of which are simply part of his job description.
Despite the baselessness of the claim, many Americans are likely buying into the notion of an apology tour. A December 2010 Gallup poll found that 37 percent of Americans believe Obama does not believe America is the greatest country in the world. That’s a strong contrast from the 19 percent who believed the same of Bill Clinton and the 9 percent believed the same for George W. Bush.
At Monday’s debate, Romney called Obama out for saying the following line during a 2009 speech in France: “There have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” It’s a line that has evoked much condemnation from the right, including criticism from Karl Rove, Bush’s former senior political adviser. Obama did say that line, but what his critics fail to mention is that he also took the French to task for their own complicit role in frosty European-American relations.
“In Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual, but can also be insidious,” Obama said in the speech. “Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what's bad.”
If that’s an apology, it’s not a very good one.