Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) reassures us that Romney’s foreign policy isn’t as risible as it seems:

I’ve spent a lot if time with Gov. Romney. I think that he has a strong understanding of foreign policy, and he does not have a Cold War view toward Russia [bold mine-DL].

All right, let’s accept for the sake of argument that Romney’s characterization of Russia as “our number one geopolitical foe” isn’t just a throwback to the Cold War. How exactly would his defenders like to characterize it? Whatever else it may be, it does not reflect reality. Would “our number one geopolitical foe” be willing to allow Americans to use transit center on its own soil to resupply U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan? It seems unlikely.

Even if it is the case that Romney’s view of Russia isn’t twenty or thirty years out of date, that doesn’t mean his preferred Russia policy makes any sense. Romney’s position on Russia is a return to Bush-era antagonism and confrontation, but it lacks any of Bush’s ultimately unsuccessful attempts to cultivate a personal relationship with Putin. That’s bad enough. Forget about Cold War references for the moment. Romney wants to revive one of the biggest foreign policy failures of the Bush administration. How is that any better?

Personal testimonials keep coming up in discussions of Romney’s foreign policy. Rand Paul came away from a meeting with Romney with the impression that the former governor believed things that contradict his public statements. Ayotte appeals to her personal experience of spending “a lot of time” with Romney, which is what persuades her that Romney has a “strong understanding” of these issues. Suppose Ayotte is right. If she’s right, why is it the case that Romney’s “strong understanding” never seems to be reflected in any of his public statements? Put another way, if Romney’s understanding of foreign policy is as “strong” as Sen. Ayotte says, why is it that his specific foreign policy arguments make him seem like (to use Drezner’s phrase) “an out-of-date clown”? Whether Romney’s views are out of date or not, he ought to be able to avoid the “clown” label at this point after running for the same office for the last five years, shouldn’t he?

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