Mitt Romney’s Commander in Chief Problem

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev., on July 24, 2012

For decades, Republican presidential candidates enjoyed a predictable advantage over Democrats on foreign policy. But not in 2012. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows President Barack Obama holding a steady 10-point lead on the question of who would make a better Commander in Chief. A recent Pew poll showed Obama with a 12-point edge on the question of who would better protect Americans from terrorist attacks. In a Pew poll four years ago, John McCain led Obama on that same question by 15 points — a whopping 27-point swing.

That’s an amazing turnaround. For three decades after the Vietnam War, Republican presidential candidates enjoyed a consistent advantage on foreign policy and national security. The Iraq War undid much of that. But Romney also brings an unusually skimpy foreign policy background for a GOP nominee. The last GOP candidate with so little experience in foreign affairs was Ronald Reagan in 1980, but at least the Gipper had a history of fervent anti-Communism.

Call it Romney’s Commander in Chief problem. In an election dominated by the economy, it might not be disqualifying. But in a close race, any disadvantage could spell defeat. Thus, Romney’s trip over the next week to the U.K., Israel and Poland is an effort to build his credibility as a statesman. But the first step was a Tuesday speech in Reno, Nev., to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention designed to draw a contrast with Obama. It was not a promising start.

(VIDEO: Mitt Romney Talks to TIME)

Romney’s main shortcoming is that he has no clear alternative vision on foreign policy. His primary complaint with Obama is both amorphous and unfair: Romney presents himself as a tribune for the ideals of American greatness and exceptionalism: “I am an unapologetic believer in the greatness of this country,” he said on Tuesday. “I am not ashamed of American power.” The implication is that Obama has somehow given up on America, is more interested in apologizing for it than in restoring it. But that’s not a new idea — it’s been a familiar conservative refrain for more than three years, one that hasn’t quite stuck with many people who don’t TiVo Hannity. There’s also the fact that Obama doesn’t actually talk this way about American greatness. And the small matter of his troop surge in Afghanistan, which ticked off the left, and his intervention in Libya, which infuriated the far right.

As for specifics, well, there aren’t many. On a conference call with reporters yesterday, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs whacked Romney for talking about foreign policy in “generalities and sound bites.” In Reno, Romney did little to refute him.

Romney complained, for instance, that Obama has set a “politically timed retreat” in Afghanistan. But apart from saying he would have allowed Obama’s “surge” troops to stay in the country for one more fighting season — something unlikely to have made a decisive difference in the conflict — Romney was vague about the endgame everyone knows is coming. He didn’t say whether he believes, as he declared in a January debate, that the Taliban must be defeated outright — or whether he thinks it might be worth hammering out a political settlement. And if Romney’s goal of “a successful transition to Afghan security forces by 2014” sounds familiar, it’s because it is the same as Obama’s, with an equally arbitrary time frame.

Romney would stiffen sanctions on Iran, though there are precious few notches left on that belt to tighten. Beyond that, he promised “all the firmness, clarity and moral courage that we and our allies can gather.” Exactly how this gathering will occur — have they looked under the couch cushions? — he didn’t say. Nor was his language implying the threat of military action any more concrete than Obama’s. Romney was similarly blurry about how exactly he would deal with Russia’s brutish leaders when it comes to Syria and missile-defense deals.

(MORE: Obama’s Worldview)

Romney did promise to take a tougher stand against China, confronting Beijing on human rights and trade. But so does nearly every presidential challenger unburdened by the geopolitical consequences of such actions. On Middle East peace, a white paper accompanying Romney’s speech suggests he will get tougher on the Palestinians than Obama has been. But, again, the reality of governing has stymied most every campaign promise about that Gordian knot.

Romney’s sharpest contrast came on the question of defense spending. While Obama wants to trim the Pentagon’s budget in future years, Romney wouldn’t touch it. In Reno, Romney raised the stakes, blaming Obama for huge Pentagon budget cuts scheduled to occur at the end of this year as part of last year’s debt limit–supercommittee deal. Unfortunately, it’s a dishonest attack. Obama doesn’t actually support those cuts, and they were designed in collaboration with GOP leaders on Capitol Hill (though Romney didn’t mention that). The point was to make the cuts so unpalatable that Republicans would be forced to swallow a grand debt bargain. In reality, most of Washington gets that “the cuts will never probably happen.”

(PHOTOS: The Rich History of Mitt Romney)

Perhaps in a bid to create news headlines around a speech with little else of note, Romney bashed Obama for White House leaks about national-security operations, which he referred to as “a national-security crisis,” and called for a special prosecutor to investigate them. It’s a little hard to believe Romney really considers this a “crisis,” especially given the long history of national-security leaks running through several past administrations. But it’s not hard to see why Romney might want to gin up a phony crisis. When it comes to foreign policy, his views turn out to be fairly mundane.

MORE: In Defense of Romney’s Vagueness

182 comments
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frankblank
frankblank

As commander in chief:

Monday: "Attack!"  

Monday night "Maybe Attack the way Ryan said."

Tuesday: "No, it was the way I said!  He's my corporal now and he meant what I said."

Tuesday night: "Well, what he said and what I said were pretty much the same thing." 

Wednesday:  "No, not exactly the same thing.  But with the same overall meaning.  We both want to get rid of Medicare-- I mean the Enemy.  I mean the Enemy!"

Wednesday night: "You are splitting hairs.  They way we Attack! will save money. Uh, and create jobs.   .... No! It will NOT waste lives. I stand by whatever I said!"

Thursday: "No!  The reasons for the Attack were not a not a bunch of lies! No!  They were not!  I AM THE CEO! I HAVE TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS AND I AM RIGHT!"

Friday: On the Morning Chat, Ann Romney: "My husband is a man whose honesty and integrity are golden."

She actually said that.

Cynthia106
Cynthia106

Coalition Party

 What I envision is that every party put forth a candidate for each office, we have a "primary" of our own as The Coalition Party, and each party, keeping their "values" and guidelines, would vote for each other's candidates, or their own candidate.  But, this is truly the only way to change the direction of our country and make real head way in this rigged electoral system we have.  So, whoever wins the election in our Coalition primaries will be the candidate that we will all back and these candidates would come from each party whether it be a Green, Justice, Independent, Peace and Freedom, Declined to State, etc. 

I can understand each alternate party wanting to keep their values and political parties alive, but the harsh reality is when you only get 5 - 10% of the vote and always being financially strapped, I think it is almost impossible for those parties to make any head way in this corrupt one-party system.

The way to achieve this is to spread the word about the concept and the stats of 5 - 10% of the vote they're getting in each election vs. the 43% we are as a coalition, and talk with the leadership of each party and make it clear that they either stay as they are and continue to receive 5 - 10% of the vote and dwindling membership, no funds to run but a shoestring election, and loss of ballot access or all these parties join together as the Peace amp; Freedom Coalition Party/the Green Coalition Party/the Independent Coalition Party/the Declined to State Coalition Party/ the Justice Coalition Party, etc.  

The coalition party is the parties united.

This is akin to the Democrats having the "Progressive Democrats of America" as an offshoot of the Democratic Party or the "Tea Party", the "Log Cabin Republicans" and Libertarian wing of the Republican Party.

I am getting a lot of good feedback from people saying to keep them informed.  I think if we have a coalition party which would be the umbrella of the Peace and Freedom, Greens, Declined to State, Independents, the Justice Party, etc., and encompassing the unions, LBGT, "minorities", women, etc., then we will appeal to so many people that the "leadership" of each alternate party will have to follow or lose members.

I like the idea of The Coalition Party, but maybe it should be named the 99% Coalition Party since Occupy has become so mainstream and people identify with the 99% vs. the 1%.

survivor1962
survivor1962

Romney is a marshmellow.  Nothing but fluff on the inside.  Listen carefully.  You won't hear him say anything of substance, even when he is following the script.  And when he is not following the script, he blunders badly.  The big business masters of the GOP don't care, though.  All they want is a president that will do as he's told...

James
James

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Leavane Cox
Leavane Cox

Specifically, Senator Obama’s economic policy is to reduce the income

tax for 95% of Americans, who have an income of less than $250,000, and a

proportional income tax increase for the 5% percent of Americans who

have an income over $250,000. 

Leavane Cox
Leavane Cox

  On the

contrary, Senator Obama’s meaning of the term “redistribution of wealth”

for positive change is merely a change in the rate of income tax.

filthburger
filthburger

 umm, that's President Obama.  you might want to remember that. 

Leavane Cox
Leavane Cox

 On the

contrary, Senator Obama’s meaning of the term “redistribution of wealth”

for positive change is merely a change in the rate of income tax.

Specifically, Senator Obama’s economic policy is to reduce the income

tax for 95% of Americans, who have an income of less than $250,000, and a

proportional income tax increase for the 5% percent of Americans who

have an income over $250,000. Therefore, this has nothing to do with the

confiscation of private property as many uneducated voters believe.

ChowT
ChowT

If there is war, would Romney go to Paris to hide out again?

Leavane Cox
Leavane Cox

ChowT, you got a good question.

 Romney will do everything to survive and to win his Presidency in 2012.

ganmerlad
ganmerlad

"Romney’s main shortcoming is that he has no clear alternative vision on foreign policy",  or on anything else.   His platform: "I am going to change things and do stuff".

James
James

my best

friend's sister brought home $20938 past week. she is getting paid on

the laptop and moved in a $456400 condo. All she did was get lucky and

apply the directions reported on this web page

http://www.LazyCash49.com

James
James

just as

Bruce responded I didn't know that any one can make $9773 in 4 weeks on

the internet. did you read this web site

http://www.LazyCash49.com

marikine
marikine

Did you guys know that president Obama's bodyguards had problem with prostitution? Romeny's problem is nothing in front of Obama's problem,

it's really weird that when the president who knows nothing about economy and has led USA to retarded economy, no one blames,  in 2008 you voted for Obama to prove that you aren't a racist, in 2012 please vote for Romney, to prove that you aren't an idiot and save this country from the WORST president,

John Smith
John Smith

Well, with the most recent "Anglo-Saxon" coverage it's not looking any better for Mittens.

carolerae
carolerae

He's got a slimy PAC that he hopes will make the Prez look unfit.  A slimy email just hit my inbox amp; he will be SwiftBoated over his Security Leaks by a bunch of old GOP Retired SpecialOps white guys.  It should all be interesting amp; all,, but won't change my vote.  It will depend on how the MSM treats the SLIMERS I suppose.  This is the way Rich men with no foreign policy experience follow up their attacks.  His little Trip doesn't even include a War Zone which he obviously avoids at all costs.  Too Noisy.