BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Congresswoman, welcome to the show.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Thank you so much. Great to be with you.
DYSON: Did Mitt Romney do any good by suggesting a kind of cultural superiority over Israel -- of Israel over the Palestinians, bringing in a kind of ethnic specificity to the debate here? Isn`t that treading on dangerous territory?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think what happened here, Michael, is that when you are a candidate for president and you`re taking a foreign trip, the idea is that you are supposed to come back at least leaving the impression that you are ready to be the commander in chief and the chief diplomat of the United States of America. So the first rule of a foreign trip like this should be first, do no harm. Mitt Romney went over to Great Britain and to Israel, and essentially was like a bull in a China shop.
What was amazing to me was that particularly in a sensitive region like the Middle East, and Israel and the West Bank in particular, to not be careful about the way he chose his words, and to risk potentially setting back the process in which we hopefully will be able to get both sides, the Palestinians and Israelis back to the table for direct bilateral negotiations, that really is damaging and potentially harmful to that goal.
So I think it`s been an unmitigated disaster so far.
DYSON: Sure, you cited the Hippocratic Oath for politicians, as well. First, do no harm.
But, secondly, make no fool. And it seems he`s been intent upon doing that.
You mentioned already the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He had nothing to say about that. Wasn`t that remarkably depressing for a leader who shows ostensible commitment to being the leader of the free world and bringing peace in that region?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, let`s just compare then-candidate Obama`s
trip to Israel and his overseas trip when he ran for president. President Obama went to Israel as a candidate. And what (AUDIO GAP) Israel to Sderot, and met with the families and victims of rocket attacks that were being launched into Israel from their neighbors, and not very friendly neighbors at that.
And that trip informed his policies as president which is why President Obama has stepped up to the plate repeatedly and authorized and pushed through funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system. And on Friday in the Oval Office, signed the U.S. Israel Enhanced Security Act which adds more funding and more batteries for Iron Dome missile defense deployments around the perimeter of Israel, because he saw first hand the impact of those, and the harm of those rockets attacks, and knew that the United States had to stand by Israel`s side.
That is what a trip as a candidate for president should do, inform your policies as president. What Mitt Romney seems to be doing is basically throwing in a few meetings to basically dress up the fact that he wanted to raise some money over there.
That`s a really cynical approach to a foreign policy trip. You know, basically, that`s disguised -- a fund-raiser disguised as a foreign policy trip.
DYSON: Well, let`s piggyback on what you said. And in fact, Israel`s deputy foreign minister, Ehud Barak, said today that President Obama`s administration has been extraordinarily supportive.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Absolutely. He`s repeatedly said that, as has Prime Minister Netanyahu and the unanimity among Israel`s leaders that President Obama has been a strong friend of Israel and that Israel has no greater friend than President Obama.
So the other problem Romney has is his considerable inability to articulate a clear message. His chief foreign policy aide suggested support for unilateral strike by Israel against Iran. Then, three hours later, had to walk it back.
Are they simply in over their heads, Congresswoman?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: They really seem to be in over their heads. They really have not been able to articulate any foreign policy position on Israel.
And Iran sanctions, Mitt Romney has absolutely actually agreed with President Obama. President Obama has always said that all options are on the table and all options means all options. But that we need to use diplomacy and the most biting sanctions he has pushed through as president both internationally and domestically to make sure we do everything we can before you go to a military option.
If Mitt Romney thinks we should be pursuing a military option against Iran, he should come out and say it. But you know, to dance around it and to essentially pretend that he has somehow a different policy than Barack Obama is simply ridiculous and continues the distortions and the lies that Mitt Romney and his campaign and his supporters have engaged in.
Barack Obama has unequivocally said not only will we do everything we can as a nation to insure that Iran never achieves its nuclear ambition, but that we do not have a policy of containment, all options are on the table. And President Obama both internationally and domestically has insured that Iran is suffering under the most biting economic sanctions ever, and has brought our fellow nations like Russia and China, who previously have not been -- we have not been able to bring them to the table, to support those biting sanctions at the U.N. That`s because Barack Obama on the world stage has reestablished the United States diplomatic relationships that were pretty decimated after the Iraq war.
Mitt Romney seems on his way to being hell-bent on doing that just as a presidential candidate, on setting us back. And it`s unacceptable. He should just come back to the United States and stay here because his trip has not done us any favors.
DYSON: Well, of course, it`s not just Israel. Last week, it was Romney`s British misadventure, insulting the British in their own country.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Right.
DYSON: And when you step back and look at this, has the trip accomplished anything for his presidential aspirations we can count up and point to?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I think trips like these are important because it shows American voters whether or not the candidate actually has the policy chops, the diplomatic skills, the experience, and the ability to actually be the world leader that the president of the United States is expected to be. And Mitt Romney has proven with this trip that he absolutely is not ready. Not ready for primetime. It`s really been amateur hour, unfortunately.
But I guess that helps us inform voters as they make that very important decision over who has the ability to be our commander-in-chief.
President Obama has been the chief diplomat, the commander-in-chief for the
last almost four years and has really done America proud on the world stage, has strong foreign policy credentials and accomplishments and the alternative, Mitt Romney, has shown us would be problematic for the United States.
DYSON: All right. Well, thank you for giving us the political low down on
(INAUDIBLE) whether or not he`s ready for primetime.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you for your time.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you, Michael.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT