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?
That seems to me to be looking through the wrong end of the spyglass. The telling fact isn’t that Romney quickly reversed course (if he has any talents, that’s one of them, and who’s to say he wouldn’t reverse again under different political conditions?) but that Romney’s hawkish advisors seem to have zero tolerance for the slightest whisper of apostasy. Which, in turn, suggests not so much how strong those advisors are but how little they trust their candidate.
Romney may sincerely want to pursue an ultra-hawkish course. He may sincerely hope to pursue a more realist course. He may sincerely not give a hoot one way or another about foreign policy, viewing it as so much culture war red meat necessary to win elections. But regardless of his views, what incidents like these suggest is that he’d be a distinctly weak President. And regardless of your own policy preferences, what’s the case for weakness?