Posted by: Lawrence D. Elliott | October 23, 2012

Mitt Romney: Geographically Challenged

Syria, in relation to Iran

The Middle East: Syria and Iran

Like millions of other Americans, I watched the third and final Presidential debate, not on television in my native California, but on my laptop in Germany. I was eager see how Gov. Romney and President Obama would measure up as they presented their knowledge of the world and their plan to guide our country through the often dangerous waters abroad. The contrast between the two men couldn’t have been more distinct.

Gov. Romney looked like a man out of his element, while President Obama was confident and knowledgeable of the subject. And why wouldn’t he be? Much of his four years in office have been spent cleaning up the mess around the world his predecessor left for him. With such hands-on knowledge, he’s supposed to be better than his challenger. But Gov. Romney said something that focused a bright light on a great deficiency he’s had since he decided to run for President in 2008: foreign affairs.

His weakness was exposed in his comment about the relationship between Syria and Iran. Here is what he said:

“Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.”

[Here’s a clip of him saying it at the debate.]


At first, I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. I just knew this wasn’t true, but he said it with such confidence, it actually caused me to question my own knowledge of geography. So I checked, just to make sure. Maybe he was right and I was wrong.

Well, he wasn’t and I was! Not only do Syria and Iran not neighbor each other (as you can see from the map above, they’re separated by Iraq and Turkey), Iran has about 1,500 miles of coastline of its own, leading to the Arabian Sea.

“Huh?” I asked myself. “How could he be so wrong?”

This wasn’t the first time he’d made such a statement. According to The Washington Post, he’s made similar statements on five separate occasions. He’s spent so much time giving his positions makeovers, you’d think this would have made the list. How can anyone so ignorant of the world even be considered for President of the United States? Given the importance of the position, shouldn’t that be a requirement?  Couldn’t he at least refer to a world map from time to time? Or perhaps, a President Romney would delegate this task to some underling.

His words reminded me of another American who landed in the news over geography a few years ago:


America…seriously…are we really considering this man to be the so-called “Leader of the Free World” when he doesn’t even know much about the world?

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  1. This is no gaffe. This is not a case of Romney being ignorant of geography, it’s a case of the so-called “fact checkers” being ignorant of the trade routes now being used as a result of sanctions.

    Romney was speaking in the context of the debate topic on foreign policy and the sanctions restricting the finances and trade of Iran. Although Iran is indeed located on the seacoast of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, the international trade sanctions have restricted and impeded its ability to transport armaments and other goods through its own seaports. To defeat these trade sanctions, Iran has resorted to using its air transportation to transport goods through an air corridor in Iraqi airspace into Syria and its seaports, such as Latakia.

    Romney’s has made this “route to the sea” comment about a dozen times before, and has continued saying it, despite fact-checkers claiming it’s false, based on geography. You’d think by now they would have started to realize that his comment is not about biography – it’s about sanction-driven, trade route realities.

    Look, there are many valid reasons to find fault with both candidates – this just doesn’t happen to be one of them.

    • Really? Then why are you explaining it and why hasn’t Gov. Romney ever done it himself? It would quiet the “fact-checkers”, right?

      • The Iran/Syria connection is fairly well known. There were a lot of much more important issues to talk about at the debates, so Romney used as short-hand commnet he’s used frequently before to mention that connection, and to move on to more important issues, like Iran’s development of nukes.

        Fact-checkers are losing credibity with the public, exactly because of chiming in on inconsequential issues like this, and often with wrong or incomplete analysis, as is the case here. In addition, the also frequently weigh in on issues which are really matters of opinion, not fact. Hence, Romney and his campaign have generally been ignoring the fact checkers.

        Romney is taking the right approach my not getting distracted by issues like this, and focusing on the issues which are really important to voters – the economy, the national debt, Iran’s development of nukes, and others.

        Voters have had enough with these distractions, and they really don’t want to be discussing:

        Romney said Iran is Syria’s route to the sea.
        Obama said he campaigned in 57 states
        Romney tied his dog to the top of his car
        Obama ate his dog
        Romney hasn’t released his tax returns
        Obama hasn’t released his college transcripts.

        Etc Etc Etc, ad infinitum and ad nauseum!

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