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Romney Has Learned Nothing

Daniel DePetris isn’t impressed by Romney’s maiden floor speech in the Senate:

Six months later, there he was on the Senate floor, giving his maiden address, subtly poking Trump in the ribs without saying his name.

He talked about everything you would expect him to talk about: morality, civility, decency, freedom, unity, free trade…and alliances.

It is strange that Romney chose foreign policy as the focus of his first floor speech as a senator. As a presidential candidate, Romney repeatedly humiliated himself by making ridiculous and brain-dead foreign policy arguments. His criticism of New START was breathtaking in how ill-informed it was, and his foreign policy was fairly described as “omni-directional belligerence” for a reason. He has not significantly improved since then. All of the reports on Romney’s speech describe him as “subtly” attacking Trump, which suggests that his attacks were not all that subtle if they were obvious to everyone. Then again, no one should expect subtlety from the man who wanted to attack Obama for the former president’s supposed “apology tour” and titled his campaign book No Apology.

Romney asserted during the presidential campaign that Russia was our “number one geopolitical foe.” This wasn’t true when he said it in the 2012 campaign, and it still isn’t today. Romney chose that line of attack because he saw Obama’s policy of engagement with Russia as a vulnerability to exploit. If it was a vulnerability, Romney completely failed to take advantage of it, because he had absolutely nothing better to offer. The senator still can’t bring himself to acknowledge that he was wrong about Russia, but now he wants to warn us that China may take their place:

Romney, who argued that China is poised to become America’s “No. 1 geopolitical adversary,” urged American leaders to fortify the U.S. against future Chinese expansion and to take steps to slow China’s rising power.

The senator’s eagerness to attack Obama for being soft on Russia led him into serious error. I don’t see how trying to do the same thing on China will produce better results. Even if one agrees that China is America’s foremost adversary, it doesn’t follow that the best course is to pursue an openly confrontational policy towards them. Romney is still stuck reciting hawkish platitudes and congratulating himself for his wisdom. The junior senator from Utah has learned nothing after all these years, and there is no reason to expect that he ever will.

Most of Romney’s new remarks are little more than boilerplate. What the senator doesn’t and maybe can’t acknowledge in his speech is how similar Trump’s foreign policy is to his own. Both wrongly faulted Obama for neglecting “allies” (read Middle Eastern clients), both embraced the deranged idea of maintaining “no daylight” with those same clients, and since becoming a senator Romney has been a reliable vote for the worst of Trump’s policies abroad. When the time came earlier this year to vote on S.J.Res. 7 to demand an end to U.S. involvement in the war on Yemen, Romney voted in lockstep with most of the other Senate Republicans. Even though his fellow Utah Republican was one of the co-sponsors, Romney predictably sided with the morally bankrupt hawks. One of the biggest attacks on our allies has come in the form of Trump’s Iran policy with the decision to renege on the JCPOA, but of course Romney has no problem with that policy or the damage that it is doing to our relations with Germany, Britain, and France. His past statements about the nuclear deal are cringe-inducing in their ignorance. Here is one from May 2018:

Brief as it is, Romney’s statement is riddled with errors. Iran had no “nuclear weapon program” last year or at any point for the last 16 years, so there was and is nothing to eliminate. Just as he did with New START, Romney dismissed the JCPOA as a “bad deal” not because of the content of the agreement but only because it was an agreement negotiated and completed under Obama. Romney is smarter, more polished, and more urbane than Trump, but his foreign policy judgment is just as appalling as the president’s. When we cut through the senator’s unimaginative endorsements of alliances and trade, we will remember why most American voters chose someone else when Romney was the Republican nominee for president.

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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