Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

2012 debate III: Does Mitt Romney have a foreign policy?

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Watching Mitt Romney during the foreign policy debate reminded me of George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential debate with the mysterious pack on his back. The likelihood was that Bush was getting answers piped in so he could seem smarter in the debate with John Kerry.

Romney could have used some help, and not just because he thought Syria shared a border with Iran.

You had the feeling that Dan Quayle would have been more prepared than Romney for the foreign policy debate. Even Gov. Bush had a foreign policy philosophy in 2000. Of course, Bush threw that out the window in 2001; thousands of Americans and Iraqis would still be alive today if Bush had followed through.

Romney should have been wearing a shirt that said, “Me too.” Watching Romney describe his thought process about Syria, the informed viewer would have been sitting there saying, “Uh, that is what Obama is doing.”

Romney or President Barack Obama will have to deal with the whole world, not just the Middle East. You wouldn’t have known this from Bob Schieffer’s obsession with that area of the world.

Nothing about Canada, the U.S. largest trading partner and the source of that “North American energy independent” mantra. Nothing about Mexico: trade, guns, drugs, gangs. And where was the European Union in a foreign policy debate.

Schieffer didn’t help things by letting Romney and then Obama slip back into domestic policy. I like Schieffer overall; Jim Lehrer, too. But Martha Raddatz and Candy Crowley kicked far more butt in their performances.

This format cries for newspaper reporters, bloggers, and other respected journalists to open up the field to cover a wider variety of issues. Watching the folks at the Fox “News” Channel whine about questions in different areas during the town hall event shows that the debates don’t help people figure out who would make the better president.

Romney is taking advantage of this idea that if it works, will be used as political strategy for the next generation of politics. The Romney you see in the debates is remnant of George W. Bush, 2000. “Hey. I’m a reasonable guy. I’ll change once I’m elected. And the MSM won’t dare call me a liar or a flip-flopper.”

No matter who Indiana elects to the Senate, the missing piece on the GOP side will be the loss of Richard Lugar. By far on the Republican side of the aisle, Lugar showed the deepest knowledge of the world. Even if Lugar were still in the Senate, Romney likely wouldn’t heed his advice.

A lot was made four years ago that Obama didn’t know much about foreign policy. But even though Obama’s time in the U.S. Senate was quite brief, he learned to listen to people who knew what was going on.

Obama drilled this point home, contrasting his trips abroad as a candidate in 2008 vs. Romney’s impression of Chevy Chase in “National Lampoon’s European Vacation.”

Obama picked Joe Biden to be his vice president. Kerry might be the next Secretary of State if Obama is elected. Hillary Clinton has made most of the world forget Condoleezza Rice’s less-than-stellar efforts at the State Department.

The vast majority of those helping the governor on foreign policy are Bushies, masters of tragic foreign policy decisions. If Romney is elected, he will have a foreign policy. But we saw what happened the last time a presidential candidate tried to improv on foreign policy. Worst. Foreign policy. Ever.

Romney had a much worse third debate than Obama had a first debate. That was ignored by the MSM as they continue to pound the message that Romney is plausible. In a battle of strong vs. plausible, strong should easily win. Either the MSM mentality is plausible in a Republican is better than strong in a Democratic, or plausible in a white president is better than strong in a black president. Either conclusion is abhorrent.

The consensus is that Obama didn’t have a good first debate because he wasn’t as attacking as Romney was. Well, Romney had fewer attacks in the foreign policy debate, had a near Gerald Ford moment, and copied off Obama’s paper in the foreign policy test. The deliberate blindness is why fewer people trust the media for rational, objective analysis.

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