Calling Russia our "number one geopolitical foe" in a CNN interview Monday, Mitt Romney rather unproductively distracted everyone from focusing on the critique he was making of President Obama. The Romney and Obama campaigns have been fighting back and forth Monday over Obama's comments to Russia's president Dmitri Medvedev -- caught on a live mic -- that after his reelection, he'd have more "flexibility" on missile defense issues. Romney's camp called the remark a sign Obama would campaign on one policy and implement another.
Speaking with CNN'S Wolf Blitzer to make that point, Romney said, according to The New York Times's Caucus Twitter account, that Russia is "without question our number one geopolitical foe." That of course, might have been an easily accepted statement during the Cold War. And perhaps Romney really does think Russia's public enemy number one. But given his hawkishness on Iran and assurance he'll call China a currency manipulator on day one of his presidency, we're not even sure Romney would agree with Romney on that point. Indeed, The Hill reports that Romney quickly clarified:
"The greatest threat the US faces is a nuclear Iran ... [But] who is it who always stands up for the world’s worst actors? It’s always Russia, typically with China along side,” Romney said. “Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage.”
Really Romney just shouldn't have set everyone off by giving the exact ranking of our "geopolitical foes" since that just sparks a silly debate. But more importantly, Romney once again managed to distract from his main point with an off-hand remark that set Twitter users off to think of their best Cold War jokes. (As Marketplace's Heidi Moore jokes in reply to the quote, "Just woke up. Is it 1984 ALREADY?") It's similar to the way "Etch-A-Sketch-gate" dominated a news cycle that could have been about his Illinois victory. (This is on an admittedly smaller scale. But the pattern holds.)
But hey, before Romney's Soviet-era sounding gaffe, the internet was busy riffing on Dmitri Medvedev's "moose-and-squirrel"-sounding assurance to President Obama that he would "transmit this information to Vladimir." All that considered, maybe it's just a day rife with Cold War nostalgia.