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Reviewing Paul Ryan’s Foreign Policy Record

While I’m on the subject of VP candidates, I may as well comment on Jeffrey Anderson’s enthusiastic argument in favor of Paul Ryan. Anderson writes:

Before Romney secured the GOP nomination, Ryan was the de facto leader of the Republican party and has been throughout most of the Obama presidency. Ryan has been the party’s No. 1 ideas guy for a long time. He has served in Congress for 13 years, compared with Barack Obama’s three years in the Senate and zero in the House when the 2008 primaries began. He’s the chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee. (Senator Obama held no leadership position.) His budgets have arguably been the boldest and most forceful shows of political leadership from the GOP since the Reagan administration. In the process of defending them, he has been nationally vetted. And while he may, being a congressman, have foreign-policy experience that’s limited, he still has more than any of the current or former governors on Romney’s list [bold mine-DL].

As a member of the House, Ryan may have some very limited foreign policy experience, but foreign policy isn’t even something in which he has shown much interest. When he gave a foreign policy address last year, he demonstrated just how little attention he has evidently paid to the subject before speculation about a possible presidential bid started swirling around him. The foreign policy speech he gave at The Alexander Hamilton Society was filled with a lot of conventional Republican rhetoric, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the substance of the speech was terrible. Anderson’s claim that Ryan’s foreign policy experience is greater than Portman’s also happens to be false. Portman’s experience may not be very great, but he is more qualified in this area than Ryan.

Once we go beyond time served in Congress, Ryan’s foreign policy record is even less attractive. When Ryan has been in a position to cast important votes in the House related to foreign policy and national security, he has reliably voted with his party, which means that he has usually voted for disastrous or misguided policies (the worst of which was his vote for Iraq war authorization) and too much military spending. Is it possible that a politician would be considered for a presidential ticket if he had voted against a war that was later regarded as a success? No, it isn’t. Somehow Ryan’s vote for a calamitous and unnecessary war has had no effect on his viability as a possible VP selection, but it should. On foreign policy, a Romney-Ryan ticket would arguably be the least-prepared presidential ticket of any pairing in the postwar era.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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