Jennifer Rubin* keeps insisting that Romney had a clue about foreign policy:
Romney and his foreign policy team were right on a great number of foreign policy issues. But to the dismay of those same advisers, he and his political handlers refused to emphasize these issues. Never can Republicans take this approach again. Foreign policy is the most critical (and generally unchecked) authority the president has. Ignoring it is the height of irresponsibility.
It’s true that foreign policy wasn’t the focus of Romney’s campaign, but the idea that he needed to talk about it more is one of his supporters’ most persistent delusions about the election. Republican hawks argued this at the time, and they were wrong then, too. Unfortunately for him, Romney didn’t ignore foreign policy as much he could have. This is why his campaign was marred by numerous unforced errors and embarrassing statements, of which the “number one geopolitical foe” line was just one. Romney inserted himself into ongoing crises when the smarter and more responsible move would have been to withhold comment, he was responsible for a series of risible op-eds on everything from New START to NATO, and he consistently promoted a foreign policy that was needlessly bellicose and confrontational. He made himself an easy target for criticism, because so many of the things that he said on this subject were ill-informed and reckless. A more accurate assessment of Romney’s foreign policy views is that he consistently took the more hawkish position regardless of its merits, and he did this out of some combination of deference to the party’s hard-liners and the need to appear “tougher” than the incumbent. This wasn’t one of the major reasons why Romney lost, but it confirmed the impression that Romney was offering little more than a return to the worst of Bush-era policies.
The funny thing about the recent “Romney was right” articles is that even some Republican hawks understand that Romney’s statement about Russia was a silly error. Pletka dismissed the #1 foe claim as “what we can only assume was a silly slip of the tongue,” and it would have been forgotten if the campaign hadn’t tried to defend it. Instead, Romney’s camp said that the statement was a “carefully thought-out” position. That was always the problem with Romney on foreign policy: what he and his advisers believed were “carefully thought-out” positions were just so much demagogic nonsense, and they apparently couldn’t tell the difference between the two.
* Of course Rubin will make any argument even now to defend Romney’s campaign, but these claims are worth responding to because they reflect widely-shared foreign policy assumptions in much of the GOP.