Since his 2008 run for the presidency, Mitt Romney has gotten his foreign policy advice from a gaggle of moderates and neoconservatives and other hawks. In this election cycle, the neoconservatives and other “Cheney-ites” reportedly marginalized moderates on the staff. One of the neocons — Dan Senor, who has been advising Romney since 2006 — seems to have stepped into the breech.
Despite a high profile, Senor came under a brighter spotlight in recent weeks for his role in two Romney campaign moves amid the GOP hopeful’s trip to Israel. Senor grabbed attention by, as one campaign official put it, getting “a little ahead” of Romney by backing an Israeli strike on Iran. Then Romney cited Senor’s book about Israeli entrepreneurship in his heavily criticized remarks that suggested economic disparities between Israelis and Palestinians could be chalked up to “culture.”
In a new report, the New York Times looked into Senor’s role on the Romney campaign and found that Senor is Romney’s “closest” foreign policy adviser and “has had his ear” since at least 2006:
His presence in the tight orbit of advisers around the Republican candidate foreshadows a Romney foreign policy that could take a harder line against Iran, embrace Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move away from being the honest broker in the conflict with Palestinians.
In light of the Times report, here’s a few items from Senor’s resume that may serve to preview what a Romney presidency may look like:
MENTORED BY BILL KRISTOL: “Beginning with Kristol, who is almost two decades his elder, Senor has flourished under the watch of a succession of father figures,” Tablet reported in a recent profile. Kristol, who led the charge into the Iraq war, has been so eager to bomb Iran that even George W. Bush mocked him as a “bomber boy.”
FLACKING FOR THE U.S. IN IRAQ: Remember those famous “rose-colored glasses” through which the Bush administration viewed the Iraq war — or, rather, used to present the Iraq war to the public? That was Senor, who flacked for the Coalition Provisional Authority through its disastrous reign over Iraq. Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran wrote in his book on the CPA that Senor, who was just 31 when he joined up, did “a masterful job of spinning the media.” He reported that Senor once told reporters: “Well, off the record, Paris is burning. But on the record, security and stability are returning to Iraq.”
WALL STREET HEDGE FUND: Since leaving government, Senor attended Harvard Business School and took up positions in prominent businesses, first at the defense giant the Carlyle Group, then at a Wall Street hedge fund. His boss at the hedge fund, Paul Singer, a “vulture capitalist,” is a major Romney backer who, while speculating on oil, funded a Karl Rove-led group that blamed President Obama for gas prices.
NEOCON PRESSURE GROUP: In 2009, Senor joined forces with Kristol to form the Foreign Policy Initiative, modeling it on the group that spearheaded the campaign for war with Iraq. Most recently, FPI called for direct U.S. military intervention in Syria. (Senor did not sign on, but fellow Romney advisers Robert Kagan, Eric Edelman, Stephen Rademaker, and Max Boot did.)
Now, as the Times reports today, Senor is Romney’s top foreign policy adviser, where he leverages his business ties into “success at hitting such people up for campaign cash.” Romney’s emerging hawkishness and critiques of Obama’s policies sound like they could have come straight from Senor — as they did in his comments about “culture.” The profile in Tablet ran down Senor’s myriad connections to the Israeli right — he even volunteered for the 1993 campaign of hard-liner Benny Begin, who opposes a two-state solution to the israeli-Palestinian conflict. If Senor and his ideological comrades hold as much sway over a Romney presidency as they do over his campaign, the situation in the Middle East could be explosive. Maybe that’s why this “policy” adviser is more often lauded for his flacking and fund-raising.