The Romney campaign is in no rush, despite an obvious opportunity, to deliver a foreign policy indictment of the president. Its reticence is evidence of lingering timidity, or the fear of being burned by the media or labeled a “warmonger,” I suspect. The Romney team still does not grasp that this would not simply a matter of “foreign policy,” which ranks low on voters concerns, but an address highlighting the administration’s lack of leadership and downright incompetence.
One need only watch a speech yesterday by Sen. Marco Rubio(R-Fla.) on the floor of the Senate, in which he spoke frankly about out foreign policy failures, to recognize how vulnerable the president is on national security:
As he put it bluntly: “We also have to accept the hard, cold fact that there are radical Islamists in that part of the world who you will never be able to reason with. They are never going to change their minds. They are never going to come around. They are never going to one day all of a sudden change their behavior because we engage them more, because we give more speeches at their universities. They are radical Islamists, a violent people. And it’s a very clear choice: either they win, or we win. And the sooner we accept that, the better off we’re going to be. We have to accept that, on the one hand, there are millions of people who want a new, better future. We will side with them. We will support their aspirations. We will work with their hopes for civilian leadership, peace and economic prosperity. But for those who are radical Islamists, whose view is that they want to conquer and bring under their control everyone who is not who they are, we have to defeat them.” Now, wouldn’t such a statement from Mitt Romney improve his standing with the voters?
Here are 10 things conservatives would really, really like to hear from Romney.
1. President Obama wants to believe we ended the war on jihadist terror, so he’s let his advisers run around for a week claiming the embassy attacks and the murder of four Americans are all about a movie. As former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told me, “The evidence now points undeniably to al-Qaeda involvement and the leadership role of a released Gitmo detainee. This and much else shreds the Obama administration lines that the war on terror is over and that Libya post-Gaddafi has been a success.”
2. He’s let the Arab League (in Libya) and the United Nations (in Syria) determine our national security interests.
3. He has threatened but done nothing to accelerate Bashar al-Assad’s exit. Syria’s main ally, Iran, sees that as weakness.
4. He has encouraged Vladimir Putin’s internal crackdown by opposing sanctions legislation (the Magnitsky bill), welcoming Russia into the World Trade Organization, congratulating Putin on a stolen presidential election and failing to react strongly when USAID workers were booted out of Russia. And for all that Russia has repeatedly vetoed action against Syria.
5. Obama is willing to allow “devastating” cuts to national security and lose more than 200,000 jobs rather than engage Congress. (The House has already passed a sequestration alternative.)
6. America has never engendered less influence and respect from both the Israelis and Palestinians.
7. China is more aggressive internationally and more repressive at home than at any time in a generation.
8. Obama snubbed the Green Revolution, got a grand total of one U.N. resolution against Iran, delayed and opposed additional U.S. sanctions until this July and has not prevented Iran from making great strides toward obtaining a nuclear weapons capability.
9. He lightened sanctions against Cuba and refused to reverse course, despite the imprisonment of an American in the Cuban gulag.
10. He has not initiated negotiations for any new free-trade agreements. (The three he signed were negotiated under the Bush administration.)
Now, really, how hard would that be? What Romney would be describing would be a lack of both leadership and judgment, a man with really no idea how to wield U.S. influence.We are weaker and less respected than when he took office.
If Romney thinks people will be spooked by a strong statement of foreign policy principles, he is both underestimating the public’s thirst for resolute leadership and in essence admitting his own inability to articulate a distinctive Romney foreign policy. The choice is not between retreat and constant war, and indeed retreat prompts aggression against America and our allies. It is about a strong, coherent foreign policy that uses America’s moral authority, economic and diplomatic pressure and military preparedness (not necessary deployment) to influence events so we are not left, as we are with Iran, between a rock (a nuclear-armed Iran) and a hard place (military action).
It is the difference between getting caught with our embassies exposed and preparing for jihadists’ riots on 9/11. It’s the difference between a leak-a-thon and a zero tolerance for leaks. And it is, most important, the difference between obfuscation (sanctions are working, the riots were about a movie) and cold candor that we live in a dangerous world in which the United States either leads or is victimized.
Really, a speech such as that should be a no-brainer, even in Boston.