Romney's questioner responds

Mark Riss, who asked a question of Mitt Romney at last week's debate, sent us this note:

"A few points about my comment directed to Mr. Romney. The question posed to him that prompted his initial response should never have been asked in the first place. It was designed to have him give the wrong answer and in this case it succeeded.

"Mr. Romney was absolutely correct in the first part of his response, in that we have a volunteer military. His sons have absolutely no obligation to serve. However, Mr. Romney has been in the public arena for quite some time. The nature of his position requires he choose his words with some care, and I'm sure by now that is second nature to him.

"Do I think he was disrespecting our troops' service? No. Poorly chosen words or not, do I believe he was at least somewhat serious when he compared that service with his sons'? Yes, and to me that shows a serious lack of empathy and a disconnect with a segment of society he wishes to lead. I would suggest Mr. Romney's wife never watched the evening news crying over an injury suffered to someone else's son on the campaign trail.

"Were my wife and I offended by his comment? Absolutely. You rarely if ever get the chance to respond in person (so to speak) to a comment someone in Mr. Romney's position makes that affects you, and it felt good to get the chance to do so. I wasn't looking for a mea culpa from Mr. Romney, I just wanted him to know how my wife and I felt.

"The writer's comments about my being "obviously emotionally overheated" were way off the mark. Passionate, yes, but I knew what I was saying. His comment on that matter leads me to believe he has no relative who has served in the war on terror, or he might better understand where we were coming from. We're not going to vote for Mr. Romney, but lots of other people will. Time to move on to other issues."

Here, from the transcript, is the exchange between Riss and Romney at the debate:

MARK RISS: Yes, what I’m obviously most interested in is how we can bring an endgame to the war in Iraq and yet still do it so that it’s a victory for us and a victory for the people of Iraq. And my question is to Governor Romney.

And that is, I’ve heard the other people up there articulate themselves a little bit better. But in your answer, I didn’t hear how you would end it. I didn’t hear an endgame plan from you and I would like a response on that.

And also along those same lines, sir, a comment.

I don’t think you fully understand how offended my wife and I were and probably the rest of the people who have sons, daughters, husbands and wives serving in the war on terror to compare your sons' attempts to get you elected (with) my son’s service in Iraq. (Cheers, applause.) I know you apologized a couple days later up there, a firestorm started. But it was wrong, sir, and you never should have said it.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, there is no comparison, of course. There’s no question. But the honor that we have for men and women who serve in armed forces is a place of honor we will never forget, and nothing compares to it. People who are willing to put their life on the line for American freedom are in a league of their own, and we owe them their -- our respect. And the sacrifice they make is something we’ll never forget.

The issue -- and I think Congressman Tancredo hit the nail on the head. This is not about broken pottery, and it’s also not about just getting out because we made a mistake. This is a global conflict going on. Radical, violent jihad. This effort ranges from Indonesia, Nigeria, and through Europe and into America, and this battlefield of Iraq is a place where we have to be successful because the consequences of what will happen on this global battlefield are enormous. And that’s why it’s so important for us to be successful with the surge, and I agree, it looks successful. I certainly hope it’s going to be fully successful. And as we are able to do that, we’re going to see ourselves able to continue in our efforts to overwhelm jihad.

The key is this: We need a global strategy -- and on my website you’ll see it -- a global strategy to help us overcome jihad globally because this is the threat which faces the entire civilized world.

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Riss vs. Romney

Thanks to Mark Riss for his repsonse to the Primary Monitor Blog concerning my assessment piece on the Republican debate last Wednesday night.

First and foremost, I thank Mr. Riss's son for his service to our country and yes, I do know soldiers who have served, survived and perished, not only in this war, but in many others; I will leave it at that. I also have heard from many Monitor letter writers whose sons and daughters are serving, and they are concerned, not about inappropriate analogies, but about Democrats who are placing our troops in danger by giving comfort to the enemy. Antiwar politicians demonstrate to the world a lack of resolve and will to win in Iraq, and there can be nothing more dangerous to the troops than political divisions which embolden the enemy.

I viewed the debate and drew no conclusions, nor did I endorse a candidate. I analyzed the responses of those at Young's restaurant, and although the individual themselves may not have meant to sound a certain way or show their true agenda, their responses illustrate that the perception of what you say often becomes reality. It is often not what you say but how you say it that counts, and if one puts themselves out there, it can cut both ways.

I have empathy for any parent who might have a relative in Iraq and I understand the emotion that is involved in any reaction when they feel their loved one is in danger. Whether or not we ought to be in Iraq, we are there and we need to be successful or all of the sacrifices by our brave soldiers will have been in vain. I can see how Romney's comments could cause an emotional response by parents who have family members serving in Iraq, and it was not appropriate. However, it is naive to think that what a candidate of either party says in a speech on the campaign trail is genuine and not being said to influence votes, giving false hope. The question begs: Do we want to see the candidate with all of their flaws, or do we want to just hear what we want to hear, regardless of reality?

Romney's comments are more about lack of political polish and "what are you thinking" versus a true reading of what he would do in office. Once the door to the Oval office closes, everything will change for the next elected president. The positions they take on the campaign trail may be more difficult to follow through on than they imagine. They may find campaign positions unrealisitc as events unfold and reality of what is really going on in the world, absent the pundits, politics and sound bites, sets in!

Mr. Riss had every right to ask Romney that question, and I celebrate free speech rights and freedom that all of our veterans have fought to preserve. Many have sacrificed their lives so that people of all political beliefs have the right to practice democracy as we know it.

- Bill Bunker