The telling fact isn’t that Romney quickly reversed course (if he has any talents, that’s one of them, and who’s to say he wouldn’t reverse again under different political conditions?) but that Romney’s hawkish advisors seem to have zero tolerance for the slightest whisper of apostasy. Which, in turn, suggests not so much how strong those advisors are but how little they trust their candidate.
Well, if Romney were my candidate I wouldn’t trust him, either, but I don’t think that is the right way to look at this. Neoconservatives and hawkish interventionists generally tend to have an almost pathological loathing of anything related to foreign policy realism, and they always have zero tolerance for “the slightest whisper of apostasy.” It has nothing to do with whether they trust Romney or not. If the’re smart, they wouldn’t trust him. He isn’t trustworthy.
This is just the latest round of enforcing boundaries and making clear who and what they find unacceptable. This is very much like the phony controversy over Chas Freeman’s appointment to an advisory board at the very beginning of Obama’s term, and it is happening for similar reasons. We see this sort of feigned hysteria all the time, and it isn’t genuine panic. This is the standard agitation that hard-liners use to restrict the range of debate and check the influence of people they oppose. If Romney and his political advisers were paying closer attention to foreign policy in the campaign, they would have understood that they were going to provoke a backlash over this, despite the fact that it was a relatively minor transition appointment. Romney received a swift reminder of what his hawkish advisers will and won’t accept, and in classic Romney fashion he placated them. Perhaps I’m missing something, but Romney’s weakness in the face of pressure and his readiness to give hard-liners what they want is why they support him.