American political norms, which are now in short supply, dictate that partisan disputes are supposed to end at Vandenberg’s “water’s edge” – political actors are supposed to be mindful of taking our domestic disputes to an international level.
Mitt Romney’s campaign is apparently ignoring these norms in new ways. We saw this in March, when the Republican condemned President Obama while the president was representing the U.S. overseas (a move that even drew a rebuke from House Speaker John Boehner), and again in May when Romney sought campaign contributions from Americans living in Hong Kong and Singapore (imagine the uproar if Obama sought campaign money from donors in China).
This, however, takes the problem to another level.
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.
There are two main problems with this, and they’re both pretty offensive.
The first problem here has to do with American traditions and norms – the Romney campaign is breaking unwritten rules by attacking the U.S. president in a foreign media forum.
The second is purely substantive: the Romney campaign knows Europe’s crises are hurting the American economy, but it’s nevertheless going to a European outlet to push for more austerity, which is already failing miserably on a continental level.
If Eurozone policymakers take the Romney campaign’s advice, they lose and we lose, but Romney’s electoral odds will improve – which for Hubbard, may be the only consideration that matters.