Romney's second successful visit...
Romney was given a prized endorsement, that of former Polish president and legendary leader of the Solidarity trade union movement that led the human rights campaign against the former Soviet Union, the great Lech Walesa. But the major damage inflicted by President Obama on the once-warm friendship between the US & Poland may survive into a Romney presidency, due to Polish cynicism as to US intentions.
Central to the alienation of our Polish ally was President Obama's negotiating behind Poland's (& the Czech Republic's) back to replace a Bush missile defense system with one more to Moscow's liking:
The Bush plan was of such paramount importance to the late Polish President Lech Kaczynski that he rapidly announced after a telephone conversation with President-elect Obama in 2008 "that the [U.S.] missile-defense project would continue." Obama's transitional team, however, flatly rejected Kaczynski's account that there would be no departure point from the Bush agreement.
Adding insult to injury, it was revealed that Obama had pulled the plug on the interceptors on Sept. 17, 2009, the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union's invasion of Poland. At the time, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk noted bitterly that "I can only have the satisfaction of being the first prime minister over the past 15 years who isn't so enchanted with our ally."...
Yet even Poles who would ordinarily welcome Washington's support have grown cynical.
"We should not triumph in self-satisfaction that Romney is coming to Poland," wrote columnist Bartosz Weglarczyk in the conservative Polish daily Rzeczpospolita. "He needs Poland in order to attack his rival Obama."
Add to this train wreck Obama's May 30 "Polish death camps" remark at the White House and gratuitous injuries inflicted upon an ally not only geopolitically in America's camp, but also sentimentally attached:
The diplomatic fissures over the abandoned missile defense project were recently widened by Obama's May 30 unfortunate reference to "Polish death camps" rather than Nazi death camps in occupied Poland. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor scrambled to defuse the row, which had blanketed major Polish news organizations, stressing, "The president misspoke -- he was referring to Nazi death camps in Poland. We regret this misstatement."
Nonetheless, the Obama administration's clarification did not ameliorate Polish outrage over misattributed culpability for the Holocaust and the murders of Poles. Tusk responded, "I am convinced that our American friends can today allow themselves a stronger reaction than a simple expression of regret from the White House spokesman -- a reaction more inclined to eliminate once and for all these kinds of errors." The back-and forth-government exchanges would result in Obama sending a formal letter of apology to the Polish government.
What makes these slights so infuriating is that Poland is one of the few European countries that sent troops to Afghanistan with full authority to actually fight--in stark contrast to France, Germany & others.
For his part, Romney gave his July 31 "Freedom and Friendship" speech in Warsaw, celebrating Polish heroes & American capitalism. Of Lech Walesa, Pope John Paul II & Reagan, Romney had this to say:
Americans watched with astonishment and admiration, as an electrician led a peaceful protest against a brutal and oppressive regime.
"It has to be understood," as President Walesa has recently said, "that the solidarity movement philosophy was very simple. When you can't lift a weight, you ask someone else for help and to lift it with you."
Of course, among the millions of Poles who said "yes", there was one who has a unique and special place in our hearts: Pope John Paul the Second. When he first appeared on the balcony above Saint Peter's Square, a correspondent on the scene wrote to his editor with a first impression. This is not just a pope from Poland, he said, "This is a pope from Galilee."
In 1979, Pope John Paul the Second celebrated Mass with you in a square not too far from here. He reminded the world there would be no justice in Europe without an independent Poland, and he reminded the Polish people, long deprived of their independence, from where they drew their strength.
While greeting a crowd huddled along a fence, he met a little girl. He paused and asked her, "Where is Poland?" But the girl - caught off guard - couldn't answer. She laughed nervously until the great pope put his hand over her heart and said: "Poland is here."
John Paul the Second understood that a nation is not a flag or a plot of land. It is a people - a community of values. And the highest value Poland honors - to the world's great fortune - is man's innate desire to be free....
In a turbulent world, Poland stands as an example and defender of freedom.
Only last month, in Gdansk, a sculpture was unveiled of President Reagan and John Paul the Second. As President Walesa told a reporter, "Reagan should have a monument in every city."
Of Romney's speech, Bill Kristol wrote at TWS:
It's striking that in these remarks, Romney chooses to speak not as a "citizen of the world" but as a citizen of the free world. He suggests that American exceptionalism isn't a basis for some sort of arrogant disdain for the rest of the world, but rather provides the grounds for a duty to stand with others around the world fighting for freedom. And he explains that, in the case of Poland but also beyond the case of Poland, the spirit of liberty can be allied with the spirit of faith, and the courage of rebellion with the power of truth.
It would be an irony if, on a foreign trip which most of his campaign regarded as a diversion from the allegedly all-important and all-consuming topic of jobs, jobs, jobs, Mitt Romney found his voice to speak about the deeper issue at stake in the 2012 election and beyond, the question of what America stands for and what America means.
Just how tall a task Romney, if elected, would confront is made clear by a riveting poll decline: since Obama took office Poles holding a favorable view of the US dropped by more than half, from over 70 percent to the mid-30s.
Bottom Line. It will take a Romney win to begin rebuilding bilateral relations with a once warm & close ally. As for his three-country scorecard, even with two out of three visits successful Romney's trip can achieve but modest benefits for his election run. But in a close election, in key states, his performances in Israel & Poland could make a difference with key constituencies in key states.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Foreign Policy, National Security, Conservative Politics