Home/Daniel Larison/Romney Isn’t Being “Kerry-ized”

Romney Isn’t Being “Kerry-ized”

Apparently, some Politico reporters were not paying attention to the 2004 election:

Romney — whose convention speech didn’t include a salute to the troops or a reference to Afghanistan, where about 75,000 Americans are still at war — is getting hit almost daily now by Democratic attacks that he is wobbly and therefore untrustworthy on national security.

It’s the same critique Republicans used to undermine Kerry to devastating effect eight years ago — and the Obama campaign plans to use the run-up to the presidential debates to make a major issue of Romney’s surprising convention stumble.

Kerry wasn’t attacked because he was “wobbly,” but because his previous hawkish record seemed to clash with his criticism of the Bush administration. After all, Kerry and his running mate voted for the Iraq war, and they focused their attacks on how Bush had managed the war rather than the decision to invade itself. Kerry came under fire from Republicans in 2004 because of his “global test” remark, which they misrepresented, and because he argued that counter-terrorism shouldn’t be so heavily militarized. Republicans contrasted these with Bush’s willingness to ignore the rest of the world and his insistence on militarized counter-terrorism.

It’s also safe to say that these reporters haven’t been paying much attention to the criticism of Romney’s foreign policy views in this election. Romney isn’t being criticized for being “wobbly,” but for being inexperienced and overly aggressive. Bush couldn’t and didn’t attack Kerry for his lack of experience on foreign policy, but for his apparent inconsistency. Whatever his other flaws, Kerry was hardly a foreign policy novice. Except for their home state, Romney and Kerry don’t have very much in common in this area. Republicans may not be willing or able to acknowledge that what’s being done to Romney isn’t “Kerry-ization,” but a sort of reverse “Dukakis-ization.” Dukakis was mocked for his inexperience and relative dovishness, and Romney is now being mocked for his inexperience and excessive hawkishness.

Obviously, Romney’s convention this year and Kerry’s eight years ago could not have been more different. Where Kerry played up his military record and his support for the military to the point of self-parody (“reporting for duty”), Romney curiously opted not to say much about the military in any way (except to throw more money at it) and chose to say nothing about the ongoing war in Afghanistan in his acceptance speech. Kerry centered his campaign around the argument that he would be a better commander-in-chief than Bush had been, and for the most part Romney has not been interested in making that claim. Kerry leaned very heavily on his military record, which is why that record came under attack, and Romney doesn’t have any such record to attack. All of this wouldn’t have to be a major problem for Romney, but for a candidate who is always complaining about Obama’s weakness on national security it is a serious mistake.

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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