Sunday, January 27, 2008

Romney: Foreign Policy

What can we say about Mit Romney that hasn’t been said a thousand times in the press. He’s a Mormon, which is a first for a serious Presidential candidate (at least in my memory, which isn’t that good). He’s a Republican governor of a very liberal leaning state. This, the state of Teddy Kennedy and John Kerry. But as the B-52s so eloquently said, “get out of the state, get out of the state you’re in.”

I know little about the time he spent in office as the governor of Massachusetts. He was a Republican, but I would imagine that he ran on a pretty moderate platform to get elected statewide there. Despite what we hear in his campaign, it sounds like his position on certain social issues was fairly flexible.

Above and beyond all this, Romney is now the only serious non-Senator candidate left in the running. Huckabee is still hanging around, but I don’t know if he can pull out another state like he did Iowa. If that’s the case, I wonder if my theory, which I’ve stated here before, that no sitting Senator has beaten a Governor for the office of President in over 100 years. Kennedy was our last sitting Senator to become President, and he beat Nixon, who was Vice President at the time.

Foreign Policy

Romney’s site indicates that he’s for increasing the military by about 100k persons and wants the military budget to be 4% of the national gross domestic product. That’s not the percentage of the federal budget, but how much the country produces. I’m wondering why we need to consider the military budget based on the gross domestic product instead of the budget itself, but perhaps he’s trying to stay away from the “how ya going to pay for that” questions.

Romney wants more money to update the military infrastructure too. That might not be a problem for him, considering that Congress likes to spend. However, he has a few paragraphs in the document on homeland security that say stuff like this:

…we need to ensure that our civilian instruments of national power have the ability to build joint efforts among our civilian agencies and empower Regional Deputies with clear lines of authority, sufficient budgets and the responsibility to develop and execute regional plans and strategies.

What does that mean? He has other stuff in there that uses the “empowers” keyword regarding National Security staff, and I wonder if he’s not going to find that empowering people in his staff isn’t going to be easy. Considering the opposition to the strengthening of federal powers in the name of the war on terror, you might wonder if the nation elects another Republican following an unpopular Republican if that helps Romney or hurts him in this area.

I generally like his flowery talk about how he’s going to reduce bureaucracy and create more interagency and civilian communication and partnerships, but there’s no specifics there.

As for the threat of Radical Islam and Jihadism, Romney gives lip service to what we’ve been hearing from Bush for several years. This is in general, not in specifics, but he does seem to understand the threat as Bush does, and also underlines that the ultimate victory will be when we’ve got the people, the Muslim moderates, on the side of freedom and democracy. He’s proposing some sort of over-arching entity, the Special Partnership Force (SPF, no relation to sun tan lotion), which will have this authority to mobilize “mobilize all elements of national power, including humanitarian and development assistance and rule of law capacity building.” Interesting, but what are the odds that the feds can get that organized. And what would it look like?

Romney hints that the United Nations is failing in its desire to be that one multilateral body that solves everyone’s problems. In his snap quotes on the site he even mentions creating a new international body, but doesn’t give any indication of who would be in it or what its purpose would be. This gives hints of a proposal I saw a few years ago to dump the UN and start over with a League of Democracies, where the members would actually be held to standards. I’m not sure what to make of his leadership in this direction, but he’s definitely playing on conservatives mistrust of the UN, and takes the time to infer that the U.S.’s failure at creating a more multi-lateral unity isn’t necessarily the U.S.’s fault.

Romney’s got a short paper on nuclear terrorism as well. Here we’re talking about dangerous countries that have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon of some sort, which could be a number of countries, but Romney focuses on Iran here. Again, he’s with Bush for the most part, but takes it a step further than where Bush has gone (which is back to the UN) and calls for political isolation. Which is fine, but I wonder about his proposal for some Ambassador at Large who’s primary focus is to “prevent nuclear terrorism.” Not a job for the meek.

I find it interesting that the sole other document on Romney’s site regarding foreign policy issues is one that talks solely and specifically about Latin America. He talks clearly about being tough with difficult national leaders like Castro and Chavez, while maintaining that we need to make a better effort to support nations that are on our side, who have more stable democracies. He mentions trade agreements, and specifically we need to keep an eye on the current trade agreement possibility with Columbia which is going to suffer from a congress that’s antagonistic toward it for some reason.

Again it’s interesting that he talks about our hemispherical neighbors instead of other parts of the world (minus the middle east, which he covers elsewhere). I wonder if a Romney administration pays as much attention to this part of the world that Bush has with other parts of the world, including Africa.

I listened to some of his speech clips that he has available on his site regarding the issues listed above and to me it sounds like Bush, but better. What I mean by that is that the issues aren’t all that different, but Romney is a much better speaker and communicator. One of the problems that Bush has faced over the last 8 years is that he stinks behind the podium. He’s not the best speaker in the field, and his public relations department needs to take a vacation. I’ve often felt like Bush had very well reasoned and correct thinking in his actions over the course of his presidency, but you’d never know it from the words emanating from his lips. The rise of talk radio and blogging has been cleaning up after dinner for him. This wouldn’t be a problem with Romney.

In conclusion, in all of his policy statements, it seems that defeating “jihadism” and competing economically with Asia are his two biggest priorities. In the light of the current state of affairs I would agree with those two statements, although I’ll handle the competition with Asia thing later when I look at his economic policy.

Here’s a portion of an interview with Romney on his foreign policy and difference between a Romney administration and the Bush administration. And here’s an article he wrote for Foreign Policy Magazine.

While his ideas and issues conform with many conservatives and with the current administration, where he suffers in the primaries is in the area of experience. John McCain is giving him what-for regarding his vast experience in the foreign policy realm. Of course, one could argue that some of the Democrat candidates have more foreign policy experience that Mit, but considering the vast differences in stated policy, I think that what the candidate stands for has more to do with whether he should get the nod and not just experience. Most Senators would say they had more experience with national and international issues that a Governor who’s never held a federal office, but that doesn’t mean anything to me, and according to history (my theory on governors getting elected over Senators to the Presidency) I think most Americans lean that way to.

One of the members of the PowerLine blog thinks that Romney is becoming the candidate of the more conservative element of the Republican Party, even with the perceived flip flopping on social issues. He’s got a strong message on foreign policy and was recently endorsed by National Review, which is going to carry some weight with conservatives. From the Review:

Romney is an intelligent, articulate, and accomplished former businessman and governor. At a time when voters yearn for competence and have soured on Washington because too often the Bush administration has not demonstrated it, Romney offers proven executive skill. He has demonstrated it in everything he has done in his professional life, and his tightly organized, disciplined campaign is no exception. He himself has shown impressive focus and energy.

It is true that he has less foreign-policy experience than Thompson and (especially) McCain, but he has more executive experience than both. Since almost all of the candidates have the same foreign-policy principles, what matters most is which candidate has the skills to execute that vision.

So for the most part, I’m on board with his foreign policy. This is a big one for me too. I was in Thompson’s camp earlier this year, and Fred was very articulate and specific in his ideas and policy statements. He was the only pseudo-libertarian in the race, as far as I was concerned, and with him dropping out, I’m forced to look hard at the more conservative of the rest of the field. In this I mean conservative in its modern sense, not classical. Free trade, free market, tough foreign policy and small government.

Next post I’ll look at some of these other issues for Romney.

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