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“Beyond The Water’s Edge”: Romney Adviser Takes U.S. Political Debate Overseas, Mitt Has “No Comment”

A senior economic adviser to Mitt Romney criticized President Obama and his policy toward crisis-torn Europe, and Germany in particular, in an op-ed article in a leading German newspaper on Saturday, raising the question of the propriety of taking America’s political fights into international affairs.

The article — written by R. Glenn Hubbard, the dean of the Columbia Business School and a former adviser in the Bush administration, and published in the business journal Handelsblatt — drew a rebuke from the Obama campaign.

“In a foreign news outlet, Governor Romney’s top economic adviser both discouraged essential steps that need to be taken to promote economic recovery and attempted to undermine America’s foreign policy abroad,” said Ben LaBolt, press secretary for the president’s re-election campaign.

Every presidential election seems to test the frequently quoted cold war-era axiom of former Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a Republican who cooperated with President Harry S. Truman, that “politics stops at the water’s edge” — though even then the rule was often observed in the breach. Separately, the Hubbard critique illustrates how the austerity-versus-stimulus debate concerning Europe is also a proxy for the ideological fight over fiscal policy that Democrats and Republicans are waging in this country.

“Unfortunately, the advice of the U.S. government regarding solutions to the crisis is misleading. For Europe and especially for Germany,” Mr. Hubbard wrote, according to a translation of his article from the Handelsblatt Web site.

He opposed what he described as the Obama administration’s efforts “to persuade Germany to stand up financially weak governments and banks in the euro zone so that the Greek crisis would not spread to other states.”

“These recommendations are not only unwise,” he added, “they also reveal ignorance of the causes of the crisis and of a growth trend in the future.”

Mr. Hubbard proposed a classic conservative pro-austerity, anti-Keynesian approach, arguing that cutting government spending will restore public confidence, encourage growth and avert future tax increases.

“Long-term confidence in solid government financing shores up growth and enables the same scope for short-term transitional assistance,” he said. “Mitt Romney, Obama’s Republican opponent, understands this very well and advises a gradual fiscal consolidation for the U.S.: structural reform to stimulate growth.”

Mr. Obama and his Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, are in the camp with economists who argue that the German-led push for austerity in Europe — at a time when businesses and consumers are too weak to spend — has produced a spiral of job losses, belt-tightening and, lately, a backlash against several governments.

But, Mr. Hubbard wrote, “President Obama’s advice to the Germans and Europe has therefore the same flaws as his own economic policy — that it pays for itself over the long term if we focus on short-term business promotion.”

When Mr. Obama ran for president in 2008, he received some criticism for a foreign trip that included a speech in Berlin before 200,000 Germans. At the time, Chancellor Angela Merkel objected to plans to use the city’s historic Brandenburg Gate as a backdrop for what a Merkel spokesman called “electioneering abroad,” leading Mr. Obama to speak at another site. But Mr. Obama did not explicitly criticize Bush administration policies, despite their prominence in the American debate that year. He mainly extolled the partnership between the United States and Germany — and Europe, more broadly — in promoting freedom and prosperity around the globe.

A Democrat with experience in foreign policy and presidential campaigns, who asked not to be identified as weighing into the debate, suggested that the Vandenberg rule had lost resonance in a polarized age. “The ‘water’s edge’ is changing, and not just because of climate change,” he said. “It’s too bad, but there it is.”

The Romney campaign declined to comment.

By: Jackie Calmes, The New York Times, June 9, 2012

June 10, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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