In a Foreign Affairs article, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee sharply criticizes the Bush administration’s foreign policy, calling it indicative of an “arrogant bunker mentality”:
American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out. The Bush administration’s arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad. My administration will recognize that the United States’ main fight today does not pit us against the world but pits the world against the terrorists.
This criticism was too much for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who has been vociferously defending President Bush all weekend. Yesterday, he told an Iowa crowd that Huckabee sounded like a Democrat and instead suggested that “we ought to be saying thank you to the president for keeping us safe these last six years.”
Today on NBC’s Meet the Press, Romney went even further, saying that Huckabee “went over the line” and “owes the President an apology.” “That’s an insult to the President and Mike Huckabee should apologize to the President,” he said. Watch it:
In the face of Romney’s attacks, Huckabee backed down from his criticisms. On CNN’s Late Edition, he instead defended Bush and attempted to demonstrate his alliance with the President:
I didn’t say the President was arrogant. … I’ve said that the policies have been arrogant. … I’m the one who actually supported the President’s surge. I supported the Bush tax cuts, when Mr. Romney didn’t. I was with President Bush on gun control, when Mitt Romney wasn’t. I was with the President on the President’s pro-life position, when Mitt Romney wasn’t.
RUSSERT: Mike Huckabee said that the George Bush presidency’s foreign policy is arrogant and a bunker mentality.
ROMNEY: That’s an insult to the President and Mike Huckabee should apologize to the President.
RUSSERT: This is what Mitt Romney said about Iraq, however, earlier this year: “Ok, well first of all, it is a mess.”
ROMNEY: Well, it is a mess. There’s no question.
RUSSERT: That’s no a reflection on George Bush?
ROMNEY: If you’re suggesting that it’s equivalent to say we made a number of errors and we have a very difficult situation in Iraq, that’s the same as saying the President is arrogant and has a bunker mentality — that’s where he went over the line.
I’ve been saying for months — and I think all the Republican candidates, in fact, have been saying for months, if not years — that following the collapse of Saddam Hussein, our policy was unprepared, unplanned, understaffed, undermanaged, and that we made a number of errors and much of the difficulty we face today is due to those errors.
But it’s very different to point out the mistakes that were made. The President’s pointed out the mistakes as well. And then to say the Bush administration, our President, is arrogant with a bunker mentality — that’s a completely different statement, for which Mike Huckabee owes the President an apology.