He seems to be… Thinking for himself. How can that be? Perhaps, like Barack Obama, Mitt Romney has a world view. It doesn’t involve the United States being one of many exceptional nations (kinda like Greece); doesn’t involve religious obeisance to whatever the Council on Foreign Relations line of the day might be. And pace his many advisers, it is only informed in part by their deeply nuanced views.
That wouldn’t be such a bad line if Romney had been making some reasonably sound or well-informed statements. Unfortunately for Romney and his advisers, he hasn’t. Romney has effectively said that he would keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan indefinitely, he would provoke a trade war with China, and he seems determined to make Russia our enemy. That’s already three strikes, and we haven’t touched on any of his other positions. If this is what can be expected from Romney’s “thinking for himself,” maybe it would be better if he didn’t.
When Bush was running his first presidential campaign, his defenders assured the public that he was being instructed and guided by many experienced and learned people. That was supposed to reassure everyone that it wasn’t a disqualifying factor that Bush didn’t seem to know (or care to know) very much about the rest of the world. The pro-Romney spin is that Romney doesn’t need to follow his advisers’ lead, because he apparently doesn’t need them. That’s all very well, except that it’s quite clear that Romney does need them, and he can’t just rely on his own understanding of these issues.
Coming back to the Sanger story that started this discussion, it’s appropriate to criticize it for its sloppiness in describing Bolton as a neoconservative (he isn’t one) and in referring to a “Bolton faction” within the Romney team. Bolton has endorsed Romney, but he was not among the original foreign policy advisers to the campaign. Sanger’s sources seems to be using Bolton as the embodiment of whatever it is that they dislike, but it’s not clear that Bolton has anything to do with the things they’re complaining about (Romney’s opposition to negotiating with the Taliban, “number one geopolitical foe,” etc.).
Another flaw in the article was this bit of credulous reporting:
In recent days, Mr. Romney’s advisers argued that the candidate’s declaration that Russia is “our No. 1 geopolitical foe” looks less out of touch now that President Vladimir V. Putin reclaimed his office with a brutal crackdown on dissent. Mr. Romney’s best line: He will “reset the reset.”
That’s his best line? He’s in more trouble than we thought. Didn’t Sanger notice that Putin’s return to the presidency and a crackdown on protesters have nothing to do with whether Romney’s “number one geopolitical foe” statement makes sense? It doesn’t matter who the Russian president is. Russia doesn’t act as “our number one geopolitical foe,” and hasn’t done so in over twenty years. If some of Romney’s advisers think that this statement is credible, his campaign is in much worse shape than it seemed.