Mitt Romney is going abroad this week for the first time as the Republican nominee on the obligatory world tour required of all presidential contenders. The trip will provide a much-needed opportunity for Romney to define his foreign policy. We’ve noted before that one of Romney’s greatest weaknesses has been his inability to define himself or his policy positions in any concrete way, positive or negative. This is especially true when it comes to foreign policy.
A piece on Romney’s foreign policy in the Wall Street Journal does little to reverse this problem. Although it notes that Romney has called for 100,000 extra active duty troops, and employs a sharp friend-enemy distinction, it has little else to point to in terms of actual policy positions. Instead, the Journal focuses on his list of foreign policy advisers. While looking at the people a candidate keeps close can give some insight into their thinking, this particular list is far from illuminating, including as it does a tasteful mix of hawkish neoconservatives and moderates running the gamut of acceptable Republican foreign policy:
Mr. Romney’s campaign rhetoric suggests he isn’t shying away from some of the tough policies advocated by his party’s neoconservatives. He has issued sharp warnings about steps he would take to keep Iran from securing a nuclear weapon, dubbed Russia the nation’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe” and has promised severe sanctions against China.
But his decision to tap several high-profile moderate advisers says that a President Romney might not adopt policies quite as tough as some of his campaign talk on issues such as Iran and China suggests.
If this wasn’t vague enough, however, team Romney is doing everything it can to frustrate efforts to discern Romney’s foreign policy from his choice of advisers.
The campaign “is good at making sure that there is a range of views that are presented,” he said. “There are times I don’t agree with some of my colleagues among the advisers. But I’ve been married 39 years and I don’t always agree with my wife.”
In an election dominated by economics, Romney’s reticence to plunge into the waters of foreign policy is understandable. But the candidate needs to define himself; voters need to have some idea of where he stands on both domestic and foreign policy before they cast their votes. Until he does, Romney will remain the man that nobody knows. Let’s hope some of this gets cleared up this week.