Under real-world rules, Dan Senor should not be anywhere near Mitt Romney‘s foreign policy inner circle. This is the man who, as spokesman for the disastrous Bush Administration reconstruction effort in Iraq, told a group of reporters, according to Imperial Life in the Emerald City by the Washington Post‘s Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “Off the record, Paris is burning. On the record, security and stability are returning to Iraq.” If there is a foreign policy moment in the past 20 years with which an adviser should not be prominently associated, it is the 2003 Paul Bremer era in Iraq, during which Rumsfeldian incompetence and willful ignorance produced an era-defining foreign policy failure.
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But under Washington rules, Senor makes perfect sense. He went to Iraq to serve a Republican Administration, and faced with the job of spinning a disaster, he kept his cool and stayed just this side of the line in painting a rosy picture of a living nightmare. That makes him a tested professional when it comes to handling the kinds of crises a campaign — or the rest of the world, for that matter — can throw at a candidate. And Senor’s got a much broader résumé than just the Iraq tour. He did time with venerable neocons like Bill Kristol and started his own business. He wrote a successful book on Israel’s economic entrepreneurship and has deep ties to powerful members of the GOP. He also is very close to top members of the Netanyahu administration. Affable, smooth and connected, Senor is exactly the kind of person the Romney campaign would recruit.
To understand how Senor became the driving force behind Romney’s visit to Israel, see this very thorough article by Allison Hoffman in the online publication Tablet. Writes Hoffman:
Senor has been a vital emissary over the past six years for Romney not just to the Israelis and the American Jewish community, but to a Republican foreign-policy establishment that, even today, remains somewhat alien territory. “Dan was hugely helpful in introducing the governor to his friends and colleagues,” said Beth Myers, Romney’s longtime aide-de-camp and a top campaign adviser. “He’s a huge validator.”
Hoffman gets Myers to go even further in describing how Senor and Romney clicked in 2006:
“The two of them hit it off immediately,” Myers said. “I can’t think of anyone who Mitt has ever met that he hit it off with so immediately as Dan Senor.”
Senor felt the same way. “We spent two hours talking about the world, the Middle East, everything, India, Pakistan, a whole range of foreign-policy issues,” Senor told me. “He was a different kind of political figure than ones I’d dealt with before. His approach to thinking through problems was so — well, his critics would say technocratic. But for better or worse it was refreshing.” By the following January, Senor was arranging to take Romney to the annual Herzliya security conference in Israel and helped prepare the governor for his debates during the Republican primary season.
Romney has a penchant for polished veterans of difficult assignments: his 2008 spokesman and current senior adviser Kevin Madden is cut from the same cloth as Senor: affable, sharp and a survivor and thriver after the GOP’s 2006 midterm debacle on Capitol Hill.