The Washington Post

Romney needs to play up his foreign-policy smarts

ABC News reports on what Mitt Romney is saying to big donors. With regard to foreign policy there was this interesting tidbit:

The [anonymous] donor, who did not want to be identified discussing the candidate’s behind-closed-doors-fundraising message, adds that although Romney almost totally focuses on the economy he also has sharp words for Obama on his foreign policy moves as president including that Obama should have more vocally backed Iran’s Green Revolution.

“He really emphasizes that Obama went on his apology tour as soon as he took office and he was bowing to every leader especially in the Middle East because he thought they would appreciate that and be our friends when in fact there has been no impact at all and he thinks the Arab Spring has been one of the greatest missed opportunities for a leader,” the top donor relayed.

This supports a pet theory of mine: Romney is better on foreign policy and more knowledgeable than he appears on a day-to-day basis on the campaign. For one thing, his campaign doesn’t leap forward with timely foreign policy items as it has done on the domestic side (and as Tim Pawlenty has done). For example, the attack on our embassy in Syria came and went without comment. The Gang of Six suggest $880 billion in defense cuts, and he doesn’t slam it. And when his spokesman on foreign affairs does talk to the media, it is hard to pick out clear, definitive policy statements.

Critics of Romney will say this reflects the candidate’s lack of strong convictions. But I think Romney is better than the foreign policy quadrant of his campaign is making him seem.

His appearance at a conference in the fall of 2009, speeches on Israel, the foreign policy aspects of his latest book and conversations with pro-Israel supporters of Romney suggest he is resolutely in favor of a robust American presence in the world, committed to victory in Afghanistan, deeply opposed to Obama’s treatment of Israel, and insistent on adequate funding of our military.

Again, critics will say Romney is “playing down” those themes because of isolationist sentiment in the party. Perhaps, or perhaps this is the one aspect of his campaign staff that is not up to par. My free advice for what is worth: Find new advisers and let Romney be Romney on foreign policy.

Candidates forget that value-voters care about foreign policy, and foreign policy prowess translates into the perception of leadership readiness. There is more to foreign policy than policy, and Romney certainly doesn’t want to let Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) or Texas Gov. Rick Perry get to the right of him on national security.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.


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