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The Zoellick Panic

Josh Rogin reports [1] on the absurdly overblown reaction to Robert Zoellick’s position as the head of Romney’s national security transition team. Even though Zoellick signed a 1998 Project for a New American Century letter [2] in favor of regime change in Iraq*, he is considered too much of a realist to be acceptable to many of Romney’s other hawkish advisers, and they are making their dissatisfaction known. The most interesting part of the story is what this episode may tell us about the general cluelessness prevailing inside the Romney campaign:

Zoellick’s critics are still struggling to process what his reemergence as a key player means. But many say that the Romney campaign’s apparent lack of awareness and preparedness for the blowback shows that top advisors are still giving short shrift to national security issues.

“Whether or not anybody can do anything about it is a question. This is the campaign that hired and fired a foreign-policy spokesman within two weeks,” one outside advisor to the campaign told The Cable, referring to the Richard Grenell episode. “Apparently the top echelon of the campaign believes that foreign policy isn’t a priority, and it shows.”

The speed with which the campaign has conceded that Zoellick will have no influence on policy is one more sign that Romney is inclined to bend to the wishes of his more hawkish advisers. What is striking about the episode is that only Zoellick’s opponents think there is any chance that he might have some influence on Romney’s foreign policy. There couldn’t be a better signal that Romney has no time for realists that displease the hard-liners in his campaign. Why should we expect anything to be different once Romney is in office?


* Five of the fifteen signatories of that PNAC letter are Romney campaign advisers or work for Romney in some capacity.

8 Comments (Open | Close)

8 Comments To "The Zoellick Panic"

#1 Comment By James Canning On August 8, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

Yet another signal that Mitt Romney in the White House would be dangerous.

#2 Comment By Sean Scallon On August 8, 2012 @ 8:17 pm

“Five of the fifteen signatories of that PNAC letter are Romney campaign advisers or work for Romney in some capacity.”

The question of course is why? Mitt was under no obligation to take them on because he hardly needed them to win the nomination. Romney does not have neocon convictions. It’s strange he feels he needs the council from an unpopular administration.

#3 Comment By Fortitude On August 9, 2012 @ 12:37 am

I’d like him better if he hadn’t been World Banker or chimed in with the Iraq war hysteria, but yes, on the whole Zoellick is clean, a realist, earned his spurs under our last competent SecState (Baker), and not to be mistaken for one of the cloven-hoof crowd. That’s why it’s got to be a mistake.

#4 Comment By jamie On August 9, 2012 @ 12:55 am

“Mitt was under no obligation to take them on because he hardly needed them to win the nomination.”

Are you sure about that? He had to look like a “serious” foreign policy conservative compared to the most salient challenger: Newt. Newt’s an activist neocon and sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, so everyone’s gotta look at least as aggressive as him.

#5 Comment By O.L. Johnson On August 9, 2012 @ 9:56 am

A Romney administration will have two primary attributes: Robber Barronism in economic policy (seeting America up for the next Bankster-induced crash) and War Mongery in foreign policy (setting America up for the next irrational, unaffordable war of choice).

A rational conservative is better off having a good vomit and then pulling the lever for the soft, timid liberalism of Obama (which can be boxed in by the Congress), than an Apocalyptic Mitt. The last thing we need is another GW Bush type catastrophe.

#6 Comment By Jim Dooley On August 9, 2012 @ 11:41 am

There is always the possibility that he would be a swan, but all signs point in the direction of duck.
So with respect to the election, to paraphrase Milton a little, they can also serve who just refuse to vote. The Republican Party has got to be made to see that unless it explicitly repudiates the WSJ wing of the party, the votes that could be theirs will never be theirs again. Obama was elected in repudiation of the Bush administration. If the Republican Party expects that it can accomplish a restoration, it behooves its more responsible members to disabuse it of the mistake.

#7 Comment By cfountain72 On August 9, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

I’m guessing that more than five of them work for Romney ‘in some capacity.’ For example, Kristol doesn’t have a place in his administration, but he’ll be cheering him all the way down the road to ‘preventive war in Iran’ and will be more than happy to lobby on his behalf on the pages of the Standard on on Fox News Sunday.

Peace be with you.

#8 Comment By Karen Hudes On August 10, 2012 @ 7:05 am

Daniel Larison has missed entirely why the campaign quickly conceded that Zoellick will have no influence on policy after Romney picked Robert Zoellick as his national security transition planning chief in the first place. The real controversy has to do with the reason Zoellick didn’t get a second term as President of the World Bank: corruption. I am a lawyer/economist who worked 20 years in the World Bank’s legal department. Zoellick fired me in retaliation the month after I reported corruption at the World Bank to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The US Congress, UK Parliament and EU Parliament have joined forces in a battle to fight the corruption that Zoellick promoted at the World Bank. I should also add: the 3 credit rating agencies are looking on as this saga unfolds. We will all suffer if the cover-up does not end.