It seems like just yesterday that Republicans' worst fear was that a divisive culture warrior in the form of a Michele Bachmann or a Rick Santorum would secure the nomination for president. Then, staid old Mitt Romney, the Brooks Brothers suit of candidates, dispatched his more ideologically flamboyant competitors in the primaries and it seemed like the party finally settled on a candidate who could seriously challenge President Obama.
But just when it was beginning to feel safe for independents fed up with Obama's economy to consider voting for Romney -- because maybe his starchy temperament and fixation on the bottom line might do the trick -- he goes abroad and reinvents himself as a defender of superior cultures around the world.
At an event for campaign donors in Israel on Monday, Romney mused about why some countries are more economically successful than others, and tied Israeli culture to its economic progress and gross domestic product, drawing a negative comparison to the less prosperous areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. "You look at Israel and you say you have a hard time suggesting that all of the natural resources on the land could account for all the accomplishment of the people here," Romney said. " ... If you can learn anything from the economic history of the world, it's this: Culture makes all the difference."
Quickly, Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, rebuked Romney, calling his comment "a racist statement" from a man who "doesn't realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation."
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