So far Mr. Romney’s most nuanced line of attack was laid out in the introduction to a campaign white paper last fall written by Eliot Cohen, a historian and security expert who worked for Condoleezza Rice in the State Department, that the “high council of the Obama administration” views the “United States as a power in decline,” a “condition that can and should be managed for the global good rather than reversed.” It also alleged a “torrent of criticism, unprecedented for an American president, that Barack Obama has directed at his own country.”
Then he comments:
The first quote is completely unsubstantiated in the white paper and is also false. But it is a staple of … neoconservative criticism of the Obama administration.
The second critique is silly – Obama hurt America’s feelings! But guess what – it’s another neocon talking point.
In addition to being silly, the second claim is also untrue. Scoblete is right that there is no meaningful difference between so-called “mainstream Republican orthodoxy” on foreign policy and neoconservative talking points, since neoconservatives continue to define and enforce what Republicans can consider “mainstream” on these issues. The “decline is a choice” argument isn’t just a neoconservative talking point–it’s the title of a Charles Krauthammer article published in The Weekly Standard. Romney deserves some credit as one of the principal co-authors of the “apology tour” lie. His No Apology book may not have been the first to circulate the “apology tour” lie, but Romney quickly appropriated the lie for his campaign. Unfortunately for Romney, Sanger may be right that the “decline is a choice” and “apology tour” attacks represent the “more nuanced” Romney critique of Obama’s record, which is another way of saying that all of his critiques are misleading or unfounded or deeply flawed in some way.
I agree with Scoblete that the Romney campaign white paper is (slightly) better than its introduction would suggest, but for the most part it was well-received because it had very little competition from other Republican campaigns. On closer inspection, even the white paper isn’t all that impressive, which raises a question Sanger didn’t address in his article: does it matter if Romney pays attention to his advisers or not? Would the quality noticeably improve, or would it just be the same bad ideas expressed at greater length?