But What Does Romney Want to Do in the Middle East?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 13 2012 3:37 PM

But What Does Romney Want to Do in the Middle East?

My wrap on Mitt Romney's lousy news cycle argues that he made one insensitive mistake, but otherwise, made no "gaffe." Other campaigns have been scorched for saying impolite things about foreign policy. Reagan. Obama. They responded by repeating themselves. Yes, I think the Iranian hostages should be freed. Yes, I will meet with the leaders of the Axis of Evil (and Venezuela). Yes, I think an administration and its embassies should take a no-apology stance toward criticism, even when the criticism is coming from angry mobs apparently furious about a stupid video.

Erick Erickson graciously (and to his own surprise) agrees with me.

[F]inally, of all the places, Slate and Dave Weigel finally point out that Mitt Romney’s gaffe was no gaffe, it was a consistent view of foreign policy foreign to the ears of the political press. He, I, and many others really do think Barack Obama is an apologist. We really do think his speech to Cairo after his entrance to the White House was part of a world apology tour. And we sure as hell think his actions in the past year to foster the Arab Spring were the actions of a naive fool.
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Finally! This is the Romney position. It was strange, yesterday, that so few of the reporters given the chance to question Romney decided to bore down into that position. Because it's not entirely clear what he would have done as the Arab revolutions broke out in 2011. After Egyptians and Libyans overthrew their governments, Romney pledged "to train all our soft power resources on ensuring that the Arab Spring does not fade into a long winter." He hasn't spelled out how he'd behave differently now, apart from promising to use more forthright language. Do we want to bring up Syria? Okay -- here's how Republicans understand his Syria policy.

As I explain in my piece, Ronald Reagan was shockingly bold in his prescriptions and criticisms of Carter policy. He wanted to free the hostages immediately after Iran took them. It was an awkward position to hold, given that the candidate had no power, and it left an opening for Carter to call Reagan bellicose and dangerous. But it was a detailed position. Romney, on foreign policy, takes an "I'm not Obama" position, occasionally boosted by a "no apology" position. Does he agree with Erickson on the Arab spring? Well, if he agrees with John McCain, he can't agree with Erickson. So he stays vague.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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