Yesterday, writing for Foreign Policy, Joshua Keating reviewed Romney’s “Short List” currently at play in the veepstakes. Six names, now familiar to the conservative commentary circuit (in order, alphabetical: Jindal, Pawlenty, Portman, Rubio, Ryan, Thune) were evaluated for electoral buzz and foreign policy credentials. All told, Keating concludes:
Recent Vice Presidential picks like Joe Biden, Dick Cheney, and George H.W. Bush were experienced foreign-policy hands, perhaps making up for the perceived shortcomings of the names at the top of their tickets. But the names of Romney’s list seem to indicate that foreign policy won’t be a major focus of his campaign.
Good. As Daniel Larison at the American Conservative notes, “Most Republican activists and pundits […] are under the woefully misguided impression that Obama is politically vulnerable on foreign policy.”
Don’t misunderstand me. I have serious misgivings with Obama’s foreign policy, defense priorities, and power posture. But let’s be honest…as I wrote way back in January, before Romney sealed the deal:
When it comes to national security, GOP candidates are fighting an uphill battle. Absent a Cold War and after eight disastrous years in Iraq, the Republicans have surrendered (or at least been forced to share) the political heirloom of “…strong on national security.” Rather, an upstart, president from the wrong side of the aisle ended an unpopular war, ramped up efforts in Afghanistan (where they should have been expended from the get-go) and killed “Public Enemy Number One.” Say what you will about the “community organizer” from Illinois, but he’s taken scalps during his time in office. Like it or not, most Americans who don’t list “Conservative Pundit” on their tax return are war weary, and generally satisfied with the defense posture of an administration that’s witnessed the death of bin Laden, the downfall of Gaddafi, and the demise of Kim Jong-il.
Fast forward to the present tense. Romney must realize that vapid bellicosity masquerading as “foreign policy” doesn’t win elections. Take that statement and multiply it in an election year when war-weary Americans are idly content to bomb the bad guys into oblivion via targeted drone strikes, and remain overwhelmingly opposed to military action against Iran. Conjuring the Red Menace seems thirty years out of date and one can’t honestly advocate room to the right of Bush era hawkishness.
Strategically speaking, Romney wins this election based on the economy, and the fact that he knows how to manage money. Not tough talk re: bombing sorties over Natanz that will drive the price of oil to $200 bucks a barrel, or a resuscitation of the Cold War.
My hope is he’s just talking the hawk, because he’s too smart to be serious on those fronts.