It appears as though Andrea Mitchell has joined the chorus of "journalists" on MSNBC attacking Mitt Romney for his comments in Israel over the weekend.
On Wednesday’s Morning Joe, Mitchell tried to scold Dan Senor, senior advisor to Mitt Romney, over what she described as Mitt’s ‘deeply offensive’ comments on the relationship between culture and economic success in Israel. [Video follows page break; MP3 audio here.]
Senor, who himself is Jewish, felt it appropriate to give Mitchell and the entire Morning Joe panel a lesson in Israeli politics and foreign policy to dispel Andrea’s ridiculous criticism of Mitt Romney. Dan pointed out that Mitt Romney’s argument was that:
The cultural choices that a society makes, the choices that it makes about its culture, about its political culture, its economic culture are big factors in determining its economic vitality...and in the case of Israel, there's no doubt the fact that there's this enormous respect for rule of law, for private property, for freedom of the press, for respect for minorities and for women in Israel and this celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation.
The comments which Mitchell found so offensive were actually cited in a United Nations development report. The UN, of course, does not have a very strong pro-Israeli record. Senor continued to educate the Morning Joe panel by pointing out that, "choices that certain actors make in the Palestinian territories as it relates to security and violence and terrorism against the Israelis requires the Israelis to do certain things, to protect basic security."
Mitchell’s decision to join the already vocal chorus of liberal journalists attacking Mitt Romney’s overseas trip is no surprise. Senor was able to squash the vicious attacks on Romney and provide a much needed crash-course on Israeli society to Mitchell and the other liberals on MSNBC.
It's just a shame that the comments were made on a cable network that few people are watching at 7 in the morning.
See relevant transcript below.
7:00 a.m. EDT
JON MEACHAM: Well I want to focus on the culture comment not only because of Dan's [Senor] position with the campaign but Dan’s the author of a very fine book on Israeli entrepreneurship. What did the Governor [Mitt Romney] mean when he talked about culture as a factor in the economic development of Israelis and did it really not apply to the Palestinians?
DAN SENOR: It was -- it was actually, what he said was very important. We were struck by the reaction it provoked. And quite frankly, it is a discussion we're ready to have because what he said was, the cultural choices that a society makes, the choices that it makes about its culture, about its political culture, its economic culture are big factors in determining its economic vitality. That's what he said. He said this by the way many times before in talking about different parts of the world and in the case of Israel, there's no doubt the fact that there's this enormous respect for rule of law, for private property, for freedom of the press, for respect for minorities and for women in Israel and this celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation which is what I talk about in my book. And so, they encourage people to take risk in Israel, to go produce things. That's why Israel's the leader in the world in biotechnology in medical device technology in information technology in clean tech and green tech. All right. Let me finish. Let me finish. He said the choices people make about culture determine -- has a huge impact on economic vitality. And by the way, the U.N. Human Development Report on the Arab world in the last few years basically with tremendous data make the exact same argument that he was making.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: All right. All right. Dan?
SENOR: Because they lack those factors.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. We've got a lot of people that want to pummel you about --
MEACHAM: Culture obviously matters. That's why we call it culture. What is the Governor's view of the Palestinian culture and its future role in the Middle East?
SENOR: I would say he believes there's a divide. That there's a big, internal struggle right now within the Palestinian world. He met on Sunday with Salam Fayyad the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, leader in the West Bank, a real moderate trying to do really serious things, developing civil institutions, the economic growth in the West Bank actually in the last few years interestingly really picked up once they stopped engaging in terrorism from the West Bank. Economic growth in the West Bank has been strong. He's in a struggle. Fayyad and his cohorts are in a struggle with Hamas who dominate the Gaza Strip which is in shambles. They launch hundreds of rockets from Gaza, thousands since Hamas took over in to Israel. The chaos in Gaza, let me finish, the chaos in Gaza is not because of the Israeli occupation. Israel has been out of Gaza for a few years. Unleashed thousands of rockets into Israel. Inculcate this culture that celebrates. You are a kid and you strap on a suicide belt and blow up a bus full of 15 Israelis and kill them, they name streets and auditoriums after you in Gaza whereas the contrast is to Israel, you know, you go develop some technology that winds up on the NASDAQ and helping make save lives in the realm of medical technology and bio tech, you're a hero. That tells you something about the culture in Gaza. It is not the culture I might add in the West Bank.
SCARBOROUGH: Okay. Let's go to Andrea Mitchell in Washington. Andrea?
ANDREA MITCHELL: Dan, if Governor Romney had made those points in that speech I don't think people would have raised questions and I don’t think he would have had the response from Salam Fayyad and other Palestinian leaders. The fact is he made the point much more broadly about the Israeli economy, the Israeli GDP in contrast to the Palestinian GDP without mentioning that the Palestinians faced because of the terrorism, because of the second intifada and the history and Israel's need for security but they have faced a wall. They have faced closures where it takes people an hour to get to their jobs to go two miles because of all of the restrictions and the way they have to -- if you have driven through the West Bank in recent years you would understand the difference between Ramallah when we were there in 2004 a bustling thriving economy and Ramallah in the intervening years because of all of the reactions. Those were not the points that Governor Romney made. Just -- he was talking about borders and about adjacent economies in the most generalized terms.
SENOR: So –
MITCHELL: And that is why it was so deeply offensive.
SENOR: So, Andrea, there's a lot in there. What you just said. So let me unpackage it. First of all, the trade restrictions and the roadblocks that are burdening the Gaza Strip in particular –
MITCHELL: I was talking about the West Bank. Not the Gaza Strip.
SENOR: Fine. They’re burdening the West Bank. Either one. The trade restrictions and roadblocks.
MITCHELL: They're very different, Dan. You're talking about a war zone versus --
SENOR: Let me respond. You said a lot. Let me respond to it. Choices that certain actors make in the Palestinian territories as it relates to security and violence and terrorism against the Israelis requires the Israelis to do certain things, to protect basic security. You talked about the security fence. You talked about roadblocks. They don't put up the roadblocks to have fun. They put up roadblocks so they can actually see if someone coming into Israel has a suicide bomb strapped to their belt. Now to inspect a human being or to inspect a vehicle to see if its loaded with explosives takes a little time. When you have a lot of people lined up at a roadblock and you have to check every car and everybody to make sure someone's not coming in to blow up a classroom full of school children, that takes time and that absolutely imposes that time and hassle and inconvenience absolutely imposes an economic burden on the Palestinian society. But this isn't a choice Israel is making. It's a response Israel is taking. In response to these decisions that these terrorists are making. So you tell me if that is Israel's fault or that is a choice that certain actors in the Palestinian territories are making that are hurting their own people, that are hurting the Salam Fayyad’s of the world who just want normalcy.