The theme of Mitt Romney’s foreign policy this campaign season is disarray. The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Reuters all published reports about the infighting among Romney’s foreign policy team and how the candidate is struggling to find any way to publicly differentiate himself from President Obama and keep the mask on his advisers’ agendas.
Today, the Washington Post has the latest profile of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s foreign policy troubles, reporting that Romney’s advisers acknowledge “that they need to sharpen their message and its delivery,” particularly given Romney’s disastrous trip to England, Poland and Israel last week:
Critics on the inside are largely supportive of those positions but remain skeptical of the campaign’s ability to project a sophisticated, substantive vision that is not mired in past and current ideological battles.
“They have this theory of the campaign and have been on autopilot with it and haven’t adjusted,” said one exasperated Republican foreign policy expert with strong conservative credentials. “It’s all about attacking Obama, when the bigger job is to introduce himself.” The decision to visit Poland, where Romney hailed the end of Soviet communism and the success of democracy and a free market, made the campaign “look like Rip Van Winkle and they think it’s 1989,” he said.
Indeed, Romney has demonstrated his “Cold War mindset” in a number of ways, from calling Russia America’s “number one geopolitical foe” to planning on boosting the U.S. military budget well beyond what the Pentagon spent at any time during the last 60 years. Even some of Romney’s own top advisers talk like the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia are still around.
But as the Post report confirms (again), divisions within Romney’s foreign policy team are still prevalent, particularly between the neocons and hawks on one side (“Cheney-ites” and the so-called “John Bolton faction”) and the George H.W. Bush era moderates on the other (the “Cheney-ites” are reportedly winning):
People who are “wigged out” by Bolton are “overstating his involvement” in the campaign, said one senior adviser. But Bolton is seen as a useful spokesman to the far right who can articulately expound Romney’s virtues and offer the conservative red meat others might shy away from.
Indeed, Bolton recently cheered Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) anti-Muslim witch hunt to root out alleged Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government — something many top Republicans have denounced. Given the chance to take a swipe at Bachmann’s Islamophobia, Romney took a pass.