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Must-Read Op-Eds for Sept. 17, 2012

THE FOREIGN RELATIONS FUMBLERNICHOLAS D. KRISTOFNEW YORK TIMESThe essential problem is that every time Romney touches foreign policy, he breaks things.

THE FOREIGN RELATIONS FUMBLERNICHOLAS D. KRISTOFNEW YORK TIMESThe essential problem is that every time Romney touches foreign policy, he breaks things. He went on a friendly trip to Britain — the easiest possible test for a candidate, akin to rolling off a log — and endeared himself by questioning London’s readiness to host the Olympic Games. In the resulting firestorm, one newspaper, The Sun, denounced “Mitt the Twit.”  ... Most dangerous of all is Romney’s policy on Iran, which can’t be dismissed as an offhand misstatement. As my colleagues David E. Sanger and Ashley Parker note, Romney muddles his own position on his nuclear red line for Iran. Plenty of candidates don’t write their own foreign policy position papers, but Romney is unusual in that he seems not to have even read his. According to clarifications from Romney’s campaign, he apparently would order a military strike before Iran even acquired a bomb, simply when it was getting close. For anyone who has actually seen a battlefield, that’s a blithe, too-light embrace of a path to yet another war. It’s emblematic of a candidate who, on foreign policy, appears an empty shell.

OBAMA'S JOBS NUMBER STILL BEATS PREDECESSOR'SFLOYD NORRISNEW YORK TIMESThe job numbers in recent months have been disappointing, encouraging Republicans who hope that the slow pace of recovery will cause voters to reject President Obama. But buried in the numbers was one accomplishment that serves only to emphasize how poorly the American economy has performed since 2000. The pace of creation of jobs in the private sector during the current administration is now greater than the pace in either of President George W. Bush's terms in office.

MUST GREAT LEADERS BE GREGARIOUS?SUSAN CAINNEW YORK TIMESIntroverted leaders often possess an innate caution that may be more valuable than we realize. President Clinton’s extroversion served him well but may have contributed to conduct that almost derailed his presidency. It’s impossible to imagine the cautious and temperate Mr. Obama mired in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Would it be better if Mr. Obama palled around with more senators, attended more cocktail parties, cut a schmoozier figure? Sure. P.R. is part of a politician’s job. And as the personality psychologist Brian Little says, we all need to act out of character occasionally, for the sake of work or people we love.A BULLY OVERPLAYS HIS HANDPETER BEINARTNEWSWEEK...Perhaps the most fundamental reason Netanyahu’s attacks have backfired is the simplest: this is about war. It’s one thing to pressure an American president into backing down on the peace process. It’s another to pressure him into attacking another country. It’s offensive and absurd to expect a president to commit himself to war by a date certain before having taken his case to the American people. Americans do not want Iran to go nuclear, but this is a country weary of war. And, increasingly, it is a country weary of Netanyahu as well.OUR MIDDLE EAST STATUS QUOAARON DAVID MILLERWASHINGTON POST...No matter who wins in November, the basic parameters of the U.S. approach to the Middle East are unlikely to change. We may get pulled into situations with unpredictable consequences (including a conflict with Iran), but the days of sweeping and grand U.S.-led designs for war and peace are pretty much over. ... If you’re looking for dramatic, creative moves from a second Obama term or a Romney administration — big peace plans, grand bargains and the like — forget about it. ...Come 2013, Obama or Romney is going to be knee-deep in trying to keep the nation from plunging headlong over the looming fiscal cliff and trying to save what’s left of the American middle class. Neither wants to be the hero of Damascus; they’ll be trying to be the hero of Detroit, Kansas City, Atlanta and Los Angeles.