Romney’s Polish Problem Is An American Problem

Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney had an overseas trip that, from a political standpoint, was less than a smashing success. Romney caught heat in London for comments about the city’s preparedness to host the Olympics, he caught heat from the Palestinians regarding remarks about how cultural differences explain the superiority of the Israeli economy. And he even caught heat in Poland, normally friendly to GOP candidates, as the Solidarity trade union distanced themselves from him. It’s the latter fact—as well as relations with Poland at large, that should be a greater source of concern for Romney and the country as a whole.

Poland and Eastern Europe deserve greater prominence in U.S. foreign policy

Let’s start by situating Poland within the broader context of the expanding European Union. The Polish government was a ready ally of George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War. This was frequently ignored by prominent national Democrats, including 2004 election opponent John Kerry, who said Bush was antagonizing the entire world. What they really meant was that Bush was antagonizing France and Germany, who in the world of the left wing are apparently more significant than the Poles.

The split between Poland-friendly pols and France-Germany friendly ones can be further placed in the context of that of Western and Eastern Europe. And let’s face it, Western Europe is a paper tiger. The unemployment rate persists in double digits, they are dependent on the U.S. for military protection and in the long haul, and they aren’t even producing enough children to replenish their populations, with the Islamic world moving in to fill the void.

By no means do I intend to imply that Poland and the East are utopias, but there’s something there that’s missing in the West and it’s an actual future. A U.S. foreign policy built on appeasing Bonn and Paris at the expense of Warsaw is about as smart as baseball team that trades its three best minor-league prospects for one aging Hall of Fame slugger well past his prime. We could further add that the U.S. should be orientating its entire foreign policy away from Western Europe and into the emerging Third World, but that’s a much bigger topic and beyond the scope of this post.

The Polish vote in the United States is unique in that it’s gone Republican, even during the immigrant phase, at a time when Irish and Italian immigrants were overwhelmingly Democratic. The reason would be Franklin D. Roosevelt’s unconscionable sell-out of Poland to Josef Stalin and the then-Soviet Union at the Yalta Conference, which divvied up Europe after World War II. The role of Ronald Reagan in bringing about the Soviet Union’s eventual demise only accentuated Poland’s status as a “red state” in Europe.

Romney & Obama could both learn something from Poland's Lech Walesa

This is what makes Solidarity’s distancing of itself from Romney alarming and something that should be a wakeup call for the GOP. The trade union, led by Lech Walesa in the early 1980s and absolutely indispensable itself in the winning of the Cold War, did not care for Romney because of his attacks on unions in the United States. Given Solidarity’s support for Reagan, it’s fair to say the Polish union isn’t insisting the Republican challenger morph into a left-wing ideologue, who sees the union as the key to the class struggle. But Romney is most decidedly from his party’s elitist wing and that’s having implications with a country that should be a natural ally.

The Democratic Party’s silent derision of Poland and Solidarity’s disdain for the current Republican candidate are emblematic of the political problem here in the United States—you’re either left with an left-winger who attacks the Catholic Church, or an out-of-touch Republican. It’s time the U.S. found its own Solidarity movement and its own Lech Walesa to lead the way out.

Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of



  • Jordan

    The de jure capital of Germany is now Berlin. Certain government agencies and quasi-government agencies have remained in Bonn for part or all of their operations (i.e. Deutsche Welle). Much of the German federal government has now relocated east. The reason Mitt Romney didn’t go to the Bundestag or Elysee (or both) is not because the eurozone is entirely economic and politically impotent. The eurozone is, despite all its current fiscal and social woes, still an enormous economic bloc. Also, the euro is the world’s second reserve currency. It’s also true that Poland is arguably the fastest economic “rising star” of the non-eurozone EU nations and certainly more successful than the other former Comecon nations that are now in the EU. However, Romney didn’t lunch with Francois Hollande or Angela Merkel simply because he does not have the political experience to candidly answer the questions of two very seasoned international politicians. I suspect that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s public humiliation of Romney would have been amplified tenfold if Romney made a series of significant international policy missteps in front of Dr. Merkel and especially Mr. Hollande (the latter politician is definitely _not_ an ally of the GOP.) Regardless of what one might say about Obama in 2008, Mitt Romney does not, at this moment, have enough knowledge of EU policy to speak credibly about it. His mere avoidance of face time with Hollande or Merkel speaks volumes about this ignorance.

  • Bolek

    And the latest: A Mitt Romney spokesman yelled at reporters “kiss my a**” and “shove it” — at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, no less. Pretty close to a sacred site. Will Romney apologize to the Polish people?

    • Chris

      Do you have any idea of the circumstances in which this shouting at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier took place? Have you heard or read the speech that Romney gave earlier on his visit to Poland? And surely you can find the photo of Lech Walesa shaking hands and wishing Romney well at the top of the page.

      No doubt that Romney will be a much better friend to Poland than Obama.

  • Bolek

    The Solidarity statement: “Regretfully, we have learned from our friends in the American trade union central AFL-CIO representing over 12 million workers about Mitt Romney’s support for the attacks against trade unions and labor rights. In this respect, I wish to express… our solidarity with American workers and trade unions. (Solidarity) will always support the AFL-CIO in their struggle for the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively.”

  • Rob

    So when Mitt Romney says Obama’s foreign policy is making America weak, he is by definition attacking our allies who have engaged with a greater emphasis on diplomacy and stealth warfare. That’s the only conclusion to draw if your analogy about John Kerry is to be believed.

  • Sam Rocha

    Very nice article, with provocative and timely implications. For Catholics, the global implications are important and should matter. You have brought them out here quite well. Sadly, for many Catholics their membership in the Republican or Democratic Party is more important than these nuanced observations, preventing them to see the varied ways a Catholic imagination must account for political decision making and public action. Abortion is a grave, ugly mark on our world today, but those who think it can be understood and opposed without the kind of insight you show here are, sadly and despite the best of intentions, deeply mistaken and destined to always become tribal cogs in one or the other parts of the secular State’s engine.



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