David Ignatius joins the legions of people pretending not to be able to tell what Romney’s foreign policy is:
I feel that way about Mitt Romney’s foreign policy. Other than his support for Israel and rhetorical shots at Russia and China, it’s a mystery what Romney thinks about major international issues and where he would take the country.
Joe Klein offered his version of this earlier this week:
Or maybe it isn’t: when Romney finally was asked about foreign policy during the question-and-answer period, he struck a more moderate tone than he did during the primaries. His remarks about Afghanistan, Israel and Iran were reassuringly unexceptional; his criticism of the President was mild. His slouch toward the center proceeds apace.
As the great foreign policy sage Londo Mollari once said, “I can only assume you have not been paying attention!” Unfortunately, this is the impression I get from a lot of commentary on Romney’s foreign policy over the last few months. The evidence is there for everyone to see, the campaign foreign policy white paper is readily available, the list of Romney’s advisers is a matter of public record, and Romney has at least five years of public statements that can be used to understand his views. Yet somehow we keep being treated to one argument after another that claims that Romney’s views are an “enigma” or otherwise unknown. Considering how relatively unimportant foreign policy is in this campaign, and considering how vague Romney has preferred to be in discussing any of his policies on the campaign trail, we know quite a lot about what Romney’s foreign policy views and “where he would take the country.” The trouble is that a lot of people across the spectrum seem determined to pretend not to notice.
Is it true that Romney’s foreign policy views are sometimes very ill-informed? Yes, but that doesn’t that he hasn’t taken positions or that we don’t know what they are. The feigned puzzlement on the part of many pundits and journalists is very strange. On many issues, Romney’s positions are very close to or identical with Obama’s, and on others, including Russia policy, there are genuine disagreements. This isn’t a mystery or an enigma. There is no guarantee that Romney will follow through on all or most of his campaign statements, but that is different from saying that he hasn’t made those statements.
Romney distinguished himself early on by vehemently denouncing the new arms reduction treaty with Russia. Like most of his party, he professed to be strongly opposed to an uncontroversial, modest arms control agreement. The fact that his anti-treaty argument was embarrassingly flawed tells us something about how thinks about these issues. More to the point, it is evidence that he doesn’t give much thought to them, but that isn’t the same thing as saying that he doesn’t have very definite views about them. So far, he has acted as a mouthpiece for the views of Republican hard-liners and “Cheneyites.” It is wishful thinking to pretend that this isn’t the case or to assume that this is going to change once he is in office.