THE BLOG
11/24/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Romney Never True to Thine Own Self

Well once again Mitt Romney has waded into, what for him, are the foreign shores of foreign policy. While addressing a neoconservative conference this week in Washington, Romney, according to reports, discussed a whole host of national security issues he has little to no experience with. Remember, this is the same guy that barely two years ago (while then Sen. Obama sat on the Foreign Relations Committee) spent his time:

"...ticking through a presidential checklist, sometimes with perilous results. Where he lacked foreign policy experience, his staff arranged one-day visits to Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Check, check, check."

Romney's business experience probably makes him an expert at making lists and checking off accomplishments, but sadly, this is not suitable for successful leadership in the foreign policy world where nuance and policy experience actually matter. For instance, at the conference, Romney called Obama's foreign policy:


"a dramatic and revolutionary" redesign in American foreign policy unlike what we have seen over the past 50 years...[and] distance ourselves from our friends and move "closer to our foes."

First, over the past fifty years, there has been a strong tradition in American foreign policy of American Presidents embracing our allies while also engaging with our enemies. Nixon went to China. Reagan helped end the Cold War by engaging with the Soviets and actually held a summit in Soviet Moscow with Gorbachev. All Romney and other conservatives seem to want is a new Cold War with Russia and China. Speaking of which, our foreign policy in 2009 should be far different than it was in 1959 since the Cold War is in fact over and our strategic imperatives and threats are far different today than they were then. If anything, we do need a new foreign policy direction that is "dramatic and revolutionary" when compared to the failures of the past 8 years, one that stands in stark contrast to the erratic and reactionary approach of the Bush administration.

Romney also went after the Administration's decision to revamp our missile defense system, saying he was "dumbfounded" by the president's decision" and "derided the new and improved intelligence." Well, I'm sure the one-term Massachusetts governor has access to the latest information from our intelligence community, and knows better on this issue than the Secretary of Defense, the intelligence community, and of course the President, people who actually spend their lives reading high level intelligence and not just giving political speeches. He also seems pretty comfortable disparaging the work of all 16 agencies in the intelligence community who put together the May 2009 intelligence assessment on Iran from which the decision to bolster the missile defense system in the face of new threats was derived. But at the same time he attacked the Justice Department for investigating possible interrogation abuses at the CIA, asserting it may expose our "friends" there. So which is it, are folks in the CIA Mitt Romney's friends he wants to defend or inept government officials he wants to attack for their apparent inability to gather reliable intelligence on Iran's missile program? Here, he seems frantically confused.

Just like Hamlet I guess, whom Romney compares Obama to:

President Obama's skepticism about a troop build-up in Afghanistan came under fire on Monday from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican who ran for president in 2008 and is actively laying the groundwork for a second run in 2012.

"This is not the time for Hamlet in the White House," said Romney. "How in the world can he be saying at this stage the things that he is saying?"

Not like Romney has never been compared to the erratic Shakespearean character before. But Romney here confuses indecisiveness with careful deliberation over an intractible issue. Romney, like most Republicans, views Afghanistan as a problem to be solved only through a purely military approach, and he doesn't understand that the role of the President is to distill different views into a coherent and comprehensive strategy, of which the military is a crucial, but not singular, part. This is something even CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus acknowledged:

Military action is absolutely necessary but it is not sufficient...Political, economic and diplomatic activity is critical to capitalize on gains in the security arena."

At a time when the political, economic, and diplomatic situation in Afghanistan remains uncertain, Obama is taking the smart approach and weighing all his options, not embarking on some strategy that fits into a quaint and elitist but factually baseless Republican Shakespearean allusion.

And Romney might want to be careful while quoting Hamlet. For a man John McCain said has "consistently taken both sides of any major issue [and] consistently flip-flopped on every issue," Romney should probably actually read the play and take guidance from perhaps its most famous phrase:

This above all -- to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

It's pretty clear, though, that the only thing Romney is to true to is his own selfish political ambitions.