Romney Wraps Foreign Tour (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By SARA MURRAY GDANSK, Poland 07/31/12)
WALL STREET JOURNAL
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GDANSK, Poland—Mitt Romney will return his attention to economic
issues during the final stop of his foreign tour in Poland, after
drawing criticism Monday from Palestinians who said they found
offensive his remarks about their standard of living.
The presumptive GOP presidential nominee plans a speech lauding
Poland´s relatively robust growth and spotlighting how a Romney
presidency would tighten ties with the central European country—moves
that could boost his standing with Polish-American voters.
Mr. Romney met former President Lech Walesa Monday in Gdansk and
departed with the equivalent of an endorsement. "I wish you to be
successful, because this success is needed to the United States, of
course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too," Mr. Walesa
said through a translator.
Mr. Walesa snubbed President Barack Obama by refusing to meet with
him in Poland last year and has previously said Mr. Obama "doesn´t
Still, Mr. Walesa said Mr. Romney had some work to do to win the
presidency. Charisma is something Mr. Romney "doesn´t really yet
have, but he´s very observant. He gets it fast and draws conclusions,
which means he has all the traits of a good leader. But he still
needs to do some rallying," Mr. Walesa told news channel TVN24 after
his meeting with Mr. Romney.
Earlier, before he departed Israel, Mr. Romney pointed out Israel´s
brighter economic prospects compared with its Palestinian neighbors
and suggested culture may have something to do with Israel´s success.
"As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in
Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per
capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority,
which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically
stark difference in economic vitality," he told a group of donors
gathered at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. He added: "And that is
also between other countries that are near or next to each other:
Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States."
But Mr. Romney´s figures underestimated the actual gap between the
economies. Per capita gross domestic product stood at $31,400 for
Israel last year, while Palestinians´ per capita GDP was $1,500 in
2010, according to an April 2012 World Bank report, which attributed
the figure to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator and a top official in the
Palestine Liberation Organization, and other Palestinians said Mr.
Romney failed to note their lack of sovereignty and limitations
enforced by Israeli military authorities. "If he checked his facts,
he would know why the Palestinians actually have to build an economy
when they have no freedom of movement, no human rights, no
fundamental freedoms," she said.
The Romney campaign said Mr. Romney frequently talks about
disparities between bordering nations. "This was not, in any way, an
attempt to slight the Palestinians," said Stuart Stevens, the Romney
campaign´s chief strategist.
Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, noted that Mr.
Romney also created waves in England when he questioned the
preparations for the London Olympics: "He´s had two countries where
he´s made a series of fumbles…This raises some questions about his
Mr. Romney hasn´t shied away from his support for Israel. He called
Jerusalem the capital of Israel in a speech Sunday evening, prompting
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat to denounce the comment
as "unacceptable." Jerusalem isn´t internationally recognized as the
capital because of disagreement over sovereignty in East Jerusalem,
parts of the city captured in 1967 that the Palestinians claim as the
capital of their future state. Mr. Romney has also signaled a tougher
approach to Iran´s nuclear ambitions, telling Israelis on Sunday
that "no option should be excluded."
During his visit to Israel, Mr. Romney didn´t meet with Mahmoud
Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority, but he did
meet with the Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. While he spoke publicly
about Middle East issues with Israeli leaders, he and Mr. Fayyad
mainly stuck to the Olympics.
Mr. Romney will return to his primary focus, the economy, in his
speech on Tuesday.
The Polish economy grew 4.3% in 2011—though it has slowed this year—
and Poland was the only country in the European Union to dodge the
effects of the 2008 financial crisis. It has been buoyed by domestic
consumption and increasing exports. Romney campaign aides also are
fond of the country´s budget narrative: Amid rising deficits,
officials cut government spending, and the economy is still growing.
Mr. Romney regularly warns that ballooning U.S. budget deficits are
sure to harm America´s long-term prosperity.
Mr. Romney also met with Prime Minister Donald Tusk and continues his
meetings with dignitaries Tuesday. He may be greeted with more
skepticism from other Polish leaders, particularly his declaration
that Russia is a top "geopolitical foe" of the U.S. The Polish
government has worked to thaw its historically tense relationship
with Russia by emphasizing cooperation.
"They are certainly worried about Russia, but I don´t think they want
to see us return to a new Cold War," said Stephen Flanagan, a defense
and national security expert at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies. "I´m not sure what the Poles are looking for
is a tougher line on Russia. They´re looking for more attention from
—Joshua Mitnick and Marcin Sobczyk contributed to this article.
(Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 07/31/12)
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