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Romney and “the Cheneyites” (II)

Jacob Heilbrunn ties himself into Kremlinological knots over Romney’s fundraiser at Cheney’s house:

Hence the fascination with the Cheney pow-wow. But perhaps the deeper relationship is between Romney and George H.W. Bush. The old man has been overtly enthusiastic about Romney, while the most his son managed to blurt out was “I’m for Mitt Romney” before ducking into an elevator, which is almost like saying, “I’m not against Mitt Romney.” Small wonder that Romney kept mum when Bush made his unofficial endorsement. There may be a little intramural tension inside the Bush family as well. 41 likely sees Romney as his true disciple, a successor, who can rectify what 43 bungled. So the question that continues to loom over Romney as he pals around with Cheney today is whether he can return the GOP to its more moderate, realist origins. Or whether he even wants to.

I suspect that Romney “kept mum” after George W. Bush’s endorsement because he doesn’t want to have to mention Bush for any reason. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe that Romney favors the elder Bush’s sort of foreign policy. If the elder Bush personally likes Romney, that is probably because Romney was the closest thing to his kind of Republican during the 2012 primaries. Romney has gone out of his way to show off his ignorance of foreign policy for many years, and the elder Bush apparently likes him anyway, so I submit that we shouldn’t conclude anything about Romney’s “real” foreign policy views from the elder Bush’s support. Why the elder Bush would see Romney as his “true disciple” in this area must remain a mystery, since Romney has never shown the slightest hint of taking foreign policy seriously or knowing much of anything about it. Everything he says on the subject betrays hostility towards foreign policy realism. His latest opportunistic attack on Venezuela is one more reminder that he just repeats whatever the most hawkish members of his party say. The only question that Romney’s Cheney fundraiser raises is this: why has there ever been any doubt that Romney’s foreign policy would be a return to the Bush era?

Michael Hirsh’s article on the same subject has a ridiculous title, but it sums things up nicely:

And Mitt Romney has let us know, again and again, where his own foreign-policy views lie: with confrontation and regime change over Kissingerian realpolitik.

Romney’s foreign policy advisers are drawn heavily from the last administration. That is the normal practice for all inexperienced governors and ex-governors, but the problem is that the foreign policy of the administration to which these advisers belonged was mostly a disaster. The campaign reportedly has a broad range of advisers, but Romney consistently sides with the most hawkish ones. His “instinct is to call the Cheneyites.” Romney isn’t going to try to “rectify what 43 bungled,” because on the whole the people Romney listens to don’t believe that “43” bungled very much.

P.S. Noah Millman rejected earlier Kremlinological interpretations of Romney on foreign policy here.

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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