Romney defends 'culture' remark, which drew Palestinian ire
July 31st, 2012
11:37 PM ET
9 years ago

Romney defends 'culture' remark, which drew Palestinian ire

(CNN) - In an opinion piece published online Tuesday, Mitt Romney defended a comment he made in Israel that drew the ire of Palestinians.

On Monday, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee pointed to a wealth disparity between Israelis and Palestinians and referenced a book which argued that "culture makes all the difference."

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"As I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," he said.

A top Palestinian said Romney's remarks were "racist."

On Tuesday, Romney wrote in an opinion piece published on the website of the conservative National Review, "(W)hat exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture?"

In his piece, Romney offered up the United States and Israel, among other countries, as examples.

"The linkage between freedom and economic development has a universal applicability,” he wrote. “One only has to look at the contrast between East and West Germany, and between North and South Korea for the starkest demonstrations of the meaning of freedom and the absence of freedom."

"Israel is also a telling example," he added. "It is a democracy that has embraced liberty, both political and economic. This embrace has created conditions that have enabled innovators and entrepreneurs to make the desert bloom. In the face of improbable odds, Israel today is a world leader in fields ranging from medicine to information technology."

Romney said the United States’ struggles for freedom had influenced American culture.

“We fought a bloody civil war against slavery and it took a nonviolent civil-rights movement to bring political and social equality to all Americans," he wrote. "In these epic struggles we changed our ‘culture’ and vastly improved it."

Romney also stood by his comments in an earlier television interview, when he said his comments were misconstrued by some who were offended.

"I'm not speaking about, did not speak about, the Palestinian culture, or the decisions made in their economy," he said on Fox News. "That's an interesting topic that deserves scholarly analysis, but I actually didn't address that. I certainly don't plan to address that during my campaign. Instead, I will point out, the choices a society makes have a profound impact on the economy and the vitality of that society."

Filed under: Israel • Mitt Romney
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Steve Rhodes

    It didn't just draw Palestinian's ire. It drew the ire of many people who have a better understanding of the region than Romney.

    If anything, his (or whoever from his campaign wrote it) National Review post was worse. It just doubled down and didn't mention the occupation. It also ignored the Palestinian innovation that goes on despite it (you'd think he'd at least read the New York Times which recently had an article on the obstacles tech companies in the West Bank face).

    July 31, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  2. Every Little Bit Helps

    "(W)hat exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture?" What about massive aid from the U.S. government year after year, and the protection of the strongest military on the face of the planet? Does that help keep an economy strong? (As opposed to, say, being blockaded at sea, barricaded at land exit and entry points, and having your land occupied by a foreign country that gives it away to its own residents to build new houses and schools on?)

    July 31, 2012 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  3. tony

    As the Worlds greatest recipient of US foreign aid, even while it is already economically and militarily hugely successful, I'd say "Culture" is definitely what's driving that.

    July 31, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  4. Gorka

    Hey Mitt, it might be the case that Palestine doesn't have much economic freedom as a result of being occupied by Israel. Just a guess. I could be wrong.

    July 31, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  5. MaryM

    How many more people of the world can Romney piss off

    August 1, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  6. Jonathan

    He's lying. He directed talked about the Palestinian culture, referring to their GDP (though getting the number wrong by quite a bit) and then claiming that culture explained it. He's flip-flopping within two days of saying it!

    August 1, 2012 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  7. Name Thad G

    You have to love those ghost writers for mitt

    August 1, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  8. Munther555

    if he loves Israel so much, why doesn't he just become its president?
    its extremely obvious that he thinks America is nothing compared to Israel.
    we in America want a president who supports his country not praises others, America is supposed to be the top country, this is worse than when Obama bowed for the Saudi king, at least he didn't praise the country and call it a better country than America.

    August 1, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  9. Mitt the nit wit

    So he stands by whatever it was he said about the subject earlier, but denies he said it if it offended anyone. He will not comment furhter until he is elected.. then he will stand firmly behind his belief that it is the palistinian culture.

    August 1, 2012 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  10. NikoEsquire

    Wow! it did not take him long to flip-flop on a comment he made yesterday. The sad part is that people still think that he is the best that the GOP has to offer. Unfortunately, they may be right...

    August 1, 2012 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  11. WAL

    does mitt believe now that "you didn't build that " and the society creates the conditions to individual to success?

    August 1, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  12. nmmell08

    I'm Sorry but Culture is not ALL the difference in economic sucess. If the US was occupied by a country would that mean that we would still be able to be at our max? Answer is no. Palestine is in the same situation. Its not all about culture, its about politics, governance styles, economic policy, what goods you ship, what goods you make, what goods you bring in, stability of the nation and many more factors that lead per capita GDP. Saying its all one factor and painting it black and white and basing your claim on a book you read shows a lack of critical thinking. Do we really want a president who is not critically thinking about foreign policies?

    August 1, 2012 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  13. Mladen Andrijasevic

    Here is how Bernard Lewis explains, in his interview to the Jerusalem Post,  why Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential:
    There’s one other group of people that I think one should bear in mind when considering the future of the Middle East, and that is women. The case has been made, and I think there is some force in it, that the main reason for the relative backwardness of the Islamic world compared to the West is the treatment of women. As far as I know, it was first made by a Turkish writer called Namik Kemal in about 1880. At that time an agonizing debate had been going on for more than a century: What went wrong? Why did we fall behind the West? 

    He said, “The answer is very clear. We fell behind the West because of the way we treat our women. By the way we treat our women we deprive ourselves of the talents and services of half the population. And we submit the early education of the other half to ignorant and downtrodden mothers

    August 1, 2012 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  14. Franky

    He can defend it, but he's wrong,the WTO specifically sites the embargo on movement of people and goods by isreal as the reason for the disparity inGDP.

    August 1, 2012 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  15. helenecha

    I guess that Palestinian people have the very good manners, for they said Romney's remarks were racist, but they didn't say Israeli culture is bad.

    August 1, 2012 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  16. Angel

    Romney mucked up and there is no way to justify his comments.

    August 1, 2012 02:45 am at 2:45 am |
  17. Kona

    Romney. What a joke of a candidate. Richey Rich goes to Washington.

    August 1, 2012 04:30 am at 4:30 am |
  18. Thinker23

    The truth is that a culture of racism, violence, mass murder and religious fanaticism can not develop thriving economy and vibrant democracy.

    August 1, 2012 05:37 am at 5:37 am |
  19. Roy

    Romney's for President of Lies, Distortion and Hate. The President of no details, just hate Obama...No spine, just hate Obama. This man is a worthless robot of the Tea Party...When is he ever going to tell the truth about anything, His taxes, His business, when was governor , his faith and his detailed vision for America. Instead he lies and distort others, like he did in the primary. I deal with many republicans who say he has no spine and that he is worse than John Kerry (And they cannot stand or trust him) . MITT STOP LYING TO AMERICA. GIVE AMERICA YOU DETAILED PLAN IF YOU HAVE ONE TO STICK TO.

    August 1, 2012 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  20. Doyle Wiley, MI

    Romney, since you are incapable of apologizing, please don't talk about world affairs. At times you make about as much sense as Palin.

    August 1, 2012 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  21. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Part of it is the Islamic radical culture that is present in many of the Arab/Muslim countries and "Palestinain" controlled areas. There is this focus on killing and murdering in the name of their religion with the idea that these murders would ascend to heaven. With all the focus on death, how can they focus on the here and now and life?

    August 1, 2012 07:11 am at 7:11 am |