If it is true the TV quiz show-modeled exercise in unpresidential “zingers” and “sound-bites” matters, then you may as well go for the K.O. Fortunately, there is a simple hit the governor can use to score in the first seconds of the first round. It is this:
No matter the topic, the question, the format or anything at all, the moment Mr. Romney is invited to speak he should say: “Mr. President, why haven’t we bombed Benghazi?”
If the moderator is too surprised to react, or if he says, “Governor, the question was — “, either way, Mr. Romney looks into the cameras and continues:
“My fellow Americans, there are many issues of public policy before us. We are a large, complex, rich and diverse country, and there always will be many such issues before us — how to educate our children; how sustain an economy of job-creating growth; how to insure Americans have access to the best health care in the world; and many more. In a democratic republic such as ours, it is normal that we should disagree and argue about how to manage public affairs. We debate and discuss all these issues and choose among various proposals to resolve them or muddle through, and we can do this in a civil and polite manner.
“But there is also an overarching issue this year. It is not a public policy issue, although it has policy implications. It is a moral issue, a national moral issue. It concerns the kind of country we are and the place of our country in the world today. It is indeed best encapsulated by the question I just put to President Obama: why haven’t we bombed Benghazi?
“A couple of weeks ago, a savage mob murdered Americans in Benghazi, a town in Libya. We, along with our British and French allies, gave support to rebels in Libya during a civil war in 2011; without our support, they would have failed in their objective, which was to overthrow the 40-year regime of Moammar Gaddafi, a very bad man.
“It is not a stretch to say the Libyans owe their new-found freedom to us, and particularly to the good and dedicated American public servants they murdered. Benghazi happens to be the historic center of opposition to the Gaddafi tyranny and it is the most important city in the new Libya, even if Tripoli remains the official capital. But Benghazi is important because most of the leaders of the victorious rebellion are based there. It is not illogical to expect that Benghazi should be a hotbed of pro-Americanism, since so many people there know, or should know, they would be dead and Gaddafi would still be dictator had we not helped them.
“Let me put it this way: imagine the year is 1782, just after the conclusion of the American Revolution that logistically and otherwise was aided by the French government, and a mob in New York lynches the French ambassador, New York being at the time the capital of the young United States. Say what you will about the French monarchy of the late 18th century, and its motives for helping us in our fight for freedom, I think you will agree the French would have been justified in feeling outraged.
“They might even have considered, they surely would have considered, sending some naval vessels into New York harbor and giving the New Yorkers what-for, and I don’t think they would have gone about it with Marquis of Queensberry rules.
“Now of course, this is a pure fantasy for the purpose of getting a grip on what happened at Benghazi a couple weeks ago. It never happened and it could not happen: the American revolutionaries were serious about the professed aims of their revolution. They were fighting for their rights, their property, their freedoms, and they had expressed the large principles under which they proposed to organize themselves once independence from Great Britain was achieved.
“They took these principles very seriously: they explicitly stated in the most famous document of the American national movement that they owed it to mankind, by which they meant both contemporary international public opinion but also their own and other civilized societies’ posterities, to justify what they knew was an extraordinary and dangerous course of action. They took the full measure of the rebellion they launched and the war they pursued. It was absolutely the most serious thing ever in their lives, and they wanted no one to think they had done all this under false premises.
“Not at all: they said they were rebelling because they believed in freedom, in the rule of law, in the rights they knew were theirs, as Englishmen and human beings. They said they had no recourse because the Empire was repressing their freedoms and their rights.
“Such men, such patriots, would not have mocked the very principles for which they fought and died scarcely a year after winning what had taken nearly a decade to achieve. They would not have thumbed their noses at the very principles of civilized government by permitting mob rule and terrorism to rampage in the streets of their major city.
“But that is what happened in Libya.
“What we saw in Benghazi was this: in the Libyan affair, we were played for fools, suckered by political gangsters who pretended to aspire to freedom in order to get us to help them take the place of other political gangsters.
“This, my fellow Americans, cannot be allowed. It cannot pass. It must be dealt with as forcibly as necessary, without delay. We cannot let the world get the message that we are suckers who can be rolled by primitive thugs.
“Now, do I really think we should turn Benghazi to rubble, as my rhetorical question to our president suggests?
“To be quite honest, I would not rule it out, were it put on the table as a viable option by our national security leaders in the Executive branch and in our armed forces. But the real issue, of course, is elsewhere: how is it that they dare to do this and why is it that our response was to apologize and assure the offenders that we feel their pain?
“And the answer is quite simple. After four years of the Obama administration they know they can get away with it. We have an administration that does not fight for America, that does not, quite frankly, believe that America’s interests come first. Including, of course, being respected, perhaps even feared as well as admired — for without respect, none of our other interests can be secure.
“In asking our president why he has not ordered the bombardment of Benghazi, I am not proposing that we start World War III, as surely the Democrat spinners and distorters are already saying. No, I am saying that the Obama administration has not led — neither in the grave international crises that define the period we are living through, nor in any other area of importance to our country, most notably putting our economy back on track and restoring the American dream of hard work and success. They have let us down. Their policies not only invite the kinds of outrages that occurred at Benghazi, they encourage more. Their policies do not restore our competitiveness and our job-creating free economic system, they sink us deeper into the mire and quicksand of debt, deficit, and discouragement.
“Bomb Benghazi? My fellow Americans, if that is what it takes, that is what I will do, but let me say this. What it really is going to take is leadership founded in faith in America and in Americans — in you, my fellow citizens.
“For the Republic, for America! And may the best team win the World Series.”
Okay, okay, perhaps he should not refer to the World Series in this riff, because too many people will say he is ending on a trivial note. But Mitt Romney must come out swinging — if not tonight, then surely in the coming weeks as he hits the road, goes on the 24/7 stump, and carries the message that what America lacks is pro-American leadership. Whatever the theme — when he is addressing foreign affairs, or jobs and growth, or debt and deficit, or health care and education, he must indicate that always the first principle is this: we will fight against anything that brings our country down.