As we all know, this is a big week for GOP contenders. Thursday night’s debate and Saturday’s straw poll are important indicators for the media and Republican establishment as a sneak preview of their future candidate through the prism of perception. Of course, the straw poll is rigged through a stilted system of participatory imbursement — don’t forget Mitt Romney’s hollow victory in the 2007 Ames ballot — but a win’s a win and one’s performance can fundamentally make or break a candidate’s media image.
Of course, one big name is conspicuously absent from the grand old party held this week in the Hawkeye State. With a campaign rollout planned for South Carolina, New Hampshire and Texas, Rick Perry threatens to overshadow the traditional kickstart to the Republican nomination. It’s rumored that the longtime Texas governor may augur up his presidential intentions in South Carolina on Saturday, before formally declaring next week in his home state. Needless to say, whoever comes out on top in the straw poll is bound to share headlines with Governor Perry.
With Perry’s candidacy looming, some of us international relations wonks have begun to take note of his foreign policy positions. As governor, Perry has been quite the internationalist, taking his traveling sales-pitch to China, Mexico, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Qatar, France and Sweden to support free-market, free trade investment in the great state of Texas. In a 2009 debate against primary opponent Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Perry plainly stated that his faith required him to support Israel. This latter statement was bolstered by his trip to the Holy Land where he accepted the Defender of Jerusalem Award before breaking bread with then-President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He put his medal where his mouth is on June 28, 2011, when he wrote Attorney General Eric Holder encouraging him to prosecute Americans who would participate in the “unacceptable provocation” of a Gaza Flotilla against Israel.
Now, Foreign Policy is reporting that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has introduced Perry to a cabal of would-be national security strategists including former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith, former NSC expert William Luti, former Assistant U.S. Attorney and National Review columnist Andrew McCarthy, the Heritage Foundation’s Asia expert Peter Brookes, and former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalizad. Rumsfeld’s office confirmed the group gathered last week in Austin to provide Perry with his first national security briefing as a potential presidential candidate.
So what do these names tell us? Well, within the galaxy of foreign policy analysts and experts these folks trend much closer to the neoconservatism of the Bush administration than the non-interventionist approach of Tea Party types like Michele Bachmann and Rand Paul, or the wishy-washiness we’ve gotten from Mitt Romney on the future of American troops in Afghanistan. As governor, Perry has suggested the deployment of American troops to Mexico to control drug violence and proceeded with the execution of a Mexican citizen, despite impassioned requests from their government, President Obama, the International Court of Justice and former President George W. Bush to stay the sentence.
Understood in context of the hard-line stance he’s taken on matters south of the Rio Grande, his national security team suggests Perry’s shaping up as the traditional defense hawk many conservative have been clamoring for in an age of Obama.