Yesterday, Vice President Biden had this to say at Sichuan University in China: “Your policy has been one which I fully understand — I’m not second-guessing — of one child per family. The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.” The comment was outrageous both in its sniveling tone and in its seeming praise for a human rights atrocity that includes forced abortions and sterilizations.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) condemned the remarks. (“I’m deeply troubled by the comments reportedly made by the Vice President yesterday regarding China’s reprehensible one-child policy, which has resulted in forced sterilizations and coerced abortions and should not be condoned by any American official. No government on Earth has the authority to place quotas on the value of innocent human life, or to treat life as an economic commodity that can be regulated and taken away on a whim by the state.”) He called for clarification or retraction.

Mitt Romney had this swift retort in a statement to Right Turn: “China’s one-child policy is gruesome and barbaric. Vice President Biden’s acquiescence to such a policy should shock the conscience of every American. Instead of condoning the policy, Vice President Biden should have condemned it in the strongest possible terms. There can be no defense of a government that engages in compulsory sterilization and forced abortions in the name of population control.”

Romney is right on the policy and right on the politics. Coupled with his strong words on the Libyan rebels (calling for extradition of the Lockerbie bomber), it suggests increasing boldness on his part. And where are the other Republican contenders? Silence so far.

Pundits underestimate the importance of foreign policy and human rights to the conservative base. A strong defense of human rights and sharp criticism of dictatorial regimes has appeal not only to hawks but to social conservatives whose concern for values do not stop at the water’s edge.