Does he believe opposition to Senate ratification is a political winner? As the privately acknowledged “invisible primary” frontrunner, is he attempting to use what leverage he has to make sure that his party does not capitulate on this issue, depriving him of the chance to draw a clear contrast with Obama? Or does he see this as an opportunity to burnish his foreign policy chops ahead of 2012?
It is hard to say what exactly Romney hopes to accomplish by trying to put a wonkish face on an absurd anti-ratification, “nuclear anarchy” position in an op-ed in The Washington Post, but it is very likely that this is intended almost purely for consumption by movement and party activists. No one else could possibly take it seriously. As Paul Podvig explains here, Romney’s op-ed is even worse than I originally argued, and Romney’s arguments are meeting with outright mockery from those who understand these issues well. Concerning tactical nuclear weapons, Podvig makes an important point:
Interestingly enough, when talking about tactical warheads, Romney makes a point that underscores importance of the treaty – he asks, “[W]ho can know how those tactical nuclear warheads might be reconfigured?” This is a legitimate question. This is why the treaty, in fact, addresses it – its explicit limit on the the number of strategic launchers, which serves to ensure that “those tactical nuclear warheads” cannot be reconfigured into anything that they are not.
So Romney grossly exaggerates the Russian advantage in deployed tactical nuclear weapons, misrepresents the treaty’s implications for tactical nuclear weapons, and generally shows that he has no idea what he’s talking about.
In the last presidential cycle, Romney decided that he had to stake out a zealous social conservative position to neutralize criticism of his earlier social liberalism and to give him some credibility with the activists and voters whose support he needed to win the nomination. For the next cycle, Romney apparently decided some time ago that attempting to out-hawk the administration and any potential Republican rivals and pretending that he knew something about foreign policy were the keys to winning in 2012. At some point during the last year and a half, Romney decided that his next presidential bid required him to jump into the deep end of American nationalism and become a champion of American exceptionalism against the ostensibly post-American worldview of Obama. This has involved embarrassing himself by showing how poorly he understands the subject he has chosen to make one of the main themes of his future campaign, and he has just done it again. This is the sort of thing that activists will cheer, which is unfortunate, because it is also the sort of thing that tells us why Romney should never be President.