On Sunday, I set out some suggestions for how to critique President Obama on national security. On “Fox News Sunday”, Liz Cheney served a model for what tough, informed criticism should sound like. On China, she observed:
Well, I think the first step is to be in a position where we can convey a level of competence that the administration hasn’t been able to convey. And if you look at what happened with Chen [Guangcheng], it was a mix of familiar ingredients that we’ve seen in many Obama foreign policy efforts — incompetence, naivete in believing that you can trust the Chinese and then a desire not to offend them, you know, not to offend this autocratic regime.
And I think that they have repeatedly come down on the wrong side of that. Senator [Marco] Rubio mentioned ... the way that they dealt with the Green Revolution for example.
On Afghanistan, she criticized the accord that Obama signed with the Afghan government, which apparently doesn’t give the United States the ability to “to use Afghan territory to launch drone strikes anyplace else, including into Pakistan.” She continued:
It is absolutely unprecedented to have a president who has rejected every major recommendation from his commanders on the ground for the entire duration of his time in office. And now we learn . . . that we are negotiating with the Taliban in a situation where we said we are leaving in 2014 so they have absolutely no incentive to negotiate with us.
I think that you can clearly look at this and say that the president is snatching defeat from what could have been a victory in Afghanistan. He doesn’t talk about victory. He doesn’t talk about winning. There is no evidence that the Taliban has broken with al-Qaeda, which he says is now apparently the objective. And there is no way to verify, frankly, any move in that direction based on the disagreement of their negotiations. So, it’s a dangerous situation.
That is the sort of robust, specific and analytical criticism that should be coming on a constant basis from Mitt Romney’s camp.
In response to my post on Sunday setting out some suggestions for effective foreign policy criticism of Obama, I heard from a substantial number of conservative foreign policy voices, some of whom have consulted with the campaign from time to time. To a person they all expressed frustration that, as one put it, no foreign policy expert has been “integrated” into Romney’s campaign.
As for the Chen incident, all those who contacted me agreed that Romney’s specific criticisms of the Chen episode were valid (i.e., that the Obama team had rushed things and not negotiated concrete steps for what would happen after he left the embassy), although a number took issue with the specific phrase “a day of shame,” which they considered to be over the top. As one foreign policy guru put it, this “gets back to the point that they need some experienced hand in Boston to make them at least appear presidential.”
Interestingly, on Fox News Sunday Bill Kristol opined: “I actually think it might be that Secretary Clinton was helped by the uproar back here. She was probably able to say to the Chinese, ‘Look this has become a huge a huge issue in the United States. We have a presidential campaign. Do you really want China to be, you know, everyone in the country to know that China — this is the way China treats its people? Why don’t you just let him go? It is probably better for you.’”
The lesson to be learned from all this? Maybe Liz Cheney should be the Romney foreign policy spokesman. (I kid, but just a little.) Seriously, the campaign has plenty of material with which to attack the president; it simply needs to approach national security with the thoughtful consideration and consistent voice the topic deserves.