Apparently, The Economist‘s editors were not paying much attention to the Republican primaries (though I can’t really blame them):
The damage done to a Romney presidency by his courting of the isolationist right in the primaries [bold mine-DL] could prove more substantial.
This is almost as bad as the Economist article that claimed Romney “has more time for NATO” than Obama when Romney has had almost nothing to say about the alliance in his life, and what he has said about it made very little sense. Isolationist is always a loaded, pejorative term, so I don’t find it very useful for describing anyone’s views, but it is almost always used to misrepresent the views of advocates of non-intervention, neutrality, and peace. Obviously, Romney has never tried courting people with these views. The suggestion is preposterous, so what’s going on here?
The editorial is criticizing Romney’s China-bashing, which is an element of his general foreign policy of what has been fairly called “omni-directional belligerence,” as well as his “pro-Israel” pandering and his support for stricter immigration policy. One might fairly describe his pandering on these issues as nationalist and hawkish, but whatever else they are they aren’t isolationist. The fact that the editorial can use isolationist as a catch-all for views that its authors don’t like regardless of what they are is another example of how meaningless the word has become. Few things could better demonstrate how content-free the isolationist label than trying to attach it to the positions Romney took during the Republican primaries.