THE BLOG
07/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mitt Romney's First Campaign Speech Against Obama

Will it ever end? Probably not. Once again a Republican presidential hopeful is accusing a Democrat of being soft on (what else?) national security.

Today it was Mitt Romney's turn to sing from the old hymnal at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, where he announced that President Obama is imperiling America's freedoms by speaking too... freely. His cynical speech in defense of idealism, which is designed to appeal to the base, showed the extent to which the GOP remains trapped in a Cold War narrative of America as the righteous redeemer, one that only needs to increase defense spending constantly in order to save the rest of the globe.

Romney began his remarks by complaining that Obama recently went on an international "tour of apology." According to Romney, "with all that is transpiring in the world, in Iran, North Korea, Georgia, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, this is the time for strength and confidence, not for apologizing to America's critics."

But Obama's obvious point was that America could only exercise its moral strength by facing up to its past shortcomings, which Romney is unwilling to acknowledge in the first place. There is a fascinating contradiction between the savior impulse that Romney espouses and the refusal to recognize that most of the globe turned its back on America because of the insalubrious and shameful conduct of the Bush administration. Instead, Romney concluded with a description of America as the "hope of the world."

Yes, yes, yes. But what does it add up to? As Romney spelled it out, America should be spending lots more on defense -- isn't the $527 billion that Obama is devoting to the defense budget in 2009 enough? -- and most particularly on missile defense.

Perhaps most troubling, however, was Romney's simplistic approach to dividing the world neatly into four kinds of powers. First comes America, which embodies freedom. Then comes China, which supports free enterprise and authoritarianism. Next is Russia, whose power derives not from industry but energy. According to Romney, "They seek to control the energy of the world..." But how would Russia successfully control Middle East oil?

Romney finished, of course, with "the Jihadists" who are out to turn the clock back to the Middle Ages for everyone else. This is straight out of George W. Bush's rhetoric about taking the fight to "the terrorists," which camouflaged the fact that there is no one terrorist grouping; rather, America and other countries are threatened by a variety of groups and individuals. But as Romney's speech indicates, he doesn't seem any more interested. at least for now, in doing nuance than during the 2008 campaign.