Tags: zogby | romney | foreign | policy

James Zogby: Romney Presidency Would 'Scare the Hell Out' of Arab World

Tuesday, 23 Oct 2012 01:43 PM

By Patrick Hobin and Kathleen Walter

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While the Arab world may not be happy with the past four years, the idea of Mitt Romney as president probably “scares the hell out of them,” Dr. James Zogby, founder and President of the Arab American Institute, told Newsmax TV.

“I do not think that they are happy with the last four years,” he said. “Public attitudes went very high in the first year of President Obama’s being in the Oval Office, but then have dropped rather sharply since then because people have not seen the dramatic change in policy. I would guess that in many cases it is that they would want a continuation because there is this myth that presidents get better second term.

Watch the exclusive interview here.

He continued, “I would put it this way: President Obama has disappointed them but Mitt Romney probably scares the hell out of them. So I think that there is a bit of a discomfort with the election itself. I do not think they feel that they are really understood on either side.”

Urgent Poll: Who Won the Foreign Policy Debate? Romney or Obama?

The Mitt Romney who debated President Barack Obama “was an entirely different person” than the one who has been campaigning for the last year, according to Zogby.

Zogby, an expert on matters in the Arab world and author of “Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us and Why it Matters,” said he is not a fan of the debates “because I think they are artificial constructs, more play acting than real policies.”

Zogby said, “I would have had whiplash if I was President Obama. I have been following both candidates and the development of their foreign policy in the case of President Obama now for five years, in the case of Gov. Romney now for at least a year and a half. The Gov. Romney who showed up last night was an entirely different person than the one who has been running low these many months. He came off like a realist instead of a neoconservative.”

“It was, to borrow the expression, a kinder, gentler, Mitt Romney and I do not know how it works. I know that President Obama has said that Gov. Romney has ‘Romnesia’; I do not think that is the case. I think that what candidates count on is that the rest of us get amnesia and do not remember either their record over many years or speeches that they have given before they go into the debates,” he said.

Romney seemed to be somewhat uncomfortable because of the difference in what he was saying in the debate and what he had been saying on the campaign trail, Zogby said.

“I think many commentators noted a bit of discomfort and I think that there was a bit of discomfort when you have been playing one role for many months: ‘I am tougher, I am going to be the guy who is going to project power in the world, I am the project for New American Century guy, and then you come in with the, I am the realist that wants to bring peace and love to the world.’ I think there is a discomfort there and he did not feel like he had fully embraced the new message,” Zogby said.

Urgent Poll: Who Won the Foreign Policy Debate? Romney or Obama?

“So I think there was a problem that he had. I think that President Obama was going on the attack but he was going on the attack against the Mitt Romney who was, not the Mitt Romney who showed up and so both of them had a little bit of difficulty connecting.”

Zogby takes issue with Romney’s notion that Iran is the greatest national security threat that faces the United States.

“Iran is a big issue in the Arab world. No doubt,” he said. “You wouldn’t have believed it listening last night. You would have thought that it was only an Israel issue. Public opinion in the Arab world is mixed on Iran. On the one hand, because their feelings about America are what they are, if you put American and Iran in the sentence, Iran wins. But if you put Iran alone in the sentence and you talk simply about Iranian policy, people are very uncomfortable with their lamenting revolution, and I don’t mean democratic revolution but sectarian revolution.”

Zogby continued, “Their support for Syria has totally undercut whatever positive feelings people had about them but America is not viewed as the savior. Some governments see America playing that role but most folks in public opinion don’t feel that way. So my sense is that the bigger the fuss we make about Iran, the less we serve the purpose of isolating them.

“I’ve always thought that ridicule, diminishing the country, bringing it down to size – I mean to say that Iran is the biggest national security threat we face, putting it on the level of the old Soviet Union or the emergent China, taking what amounts to a tinhorn religious dictatorship that is barely able to keep its money afloat is ridiculous. It sort of plays right into the complex they have that they are this great civilization that someday will rule. We don’t serve our purpose well, we don’t serve the region well when we make Iran bigger than it really is,” he said.

Urgent Poll: Who Won the Foreign Policy Debate? Romney or Obama?

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