I believed all the candidates were going on at 9:30, but when I got here by that time, I had missed Sen. Rick Santorum, who arrived in person. My apologies to the senator, who apprently pledged to give the Iranian leaders an ultimatum regarding inspections. But all past record indicates that what he said was not very different from what I just saw Mitt Romney say. And it turns out that what Romney says is not as far from what President Obama says as Romney (and Santorum) would like for you to believe. In an indispensable report this morning, Helene Cooper notes, “Though advisers to Mr. Romney say they see significant differences between his Iran policy and Mr. Obama’s, other Iran experts and former officials in Republican and Democratic administrations say they do not see how the Iran policies being espoused on the Republican presidential campaign trail would do much more to stop Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon. In the case of Mr. Romney, they said, his Iran policy is essentially Mr. Obama’s Iran policy.”
With that in mind, let’s go to the tape. Romney appeared on the screen, apparently a two-way satellite feed, but he did not respond to the crowd (for example, did not pause for the copious applause he received). It felt a little like a video that comes before a Disney ride. “While I can’t be with you, I stand with you,” he said.
He slammed the Obama administration for publicly warning Israel against attacking Iran. “Israel doesn’t need public lectures about how to wage war and peace,” he said. “It needs our support.” He mentioned that the two countries would have a closer relationship under a President Romney, and that the two leaders would: he worked with Prime Minister Netanyahu at Boston Consulting Group three decades ago.
His best line, and the one that got the most applause? “My first foreign trip will not be to Cairo or Riyadh or Accra. It’ll be to Jerusalem.” Standing ovation.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.