Romney Still Lagging in Foreign Policy Strategy

Romney Still Lagging in Foreign Policy Strategy

By Erin McPike - April 17, 2012

Since launching his bid for the White House last year, Mitt Romney has taken a far more passive approach to combating President Obama on foreign policy than he has to contrasting their economic approaches.

In his speeches, the GOP's all-but-certain standard-bearer regularly berates the president for the state of the economy. His campaign follows suit with daily documents, videos and press calls dinging the White House over unemployment. Team Romney frequently criticizes the administration for rising energy prices and for tax policies.

But when it comes to foreign policy, the tack has been more reactive and piecemeal.

When international incidents occur -- such as North Korea’s failed rocket launch on Friday -- the Romney campaign cobbles together statements accusing Obama of failed leadership.

“Although the missile test failed, Pyongyang's . . . weapons program poses a clear and growing threat to the United States, one for which President Obama has no effective response,” Romney said in a written statement. “Instead of approaching Pyongyang from a position of strength, President Obama sought to appease the regime with a food-aid deal that proved to be as naïve as it was short-lived. At the same time, he has cut critical U.S. missile defense programs and continues to underfund them.”

And so, he concluded: “This incompetence from the Obama administration has emboldened the North Korean regime and undermined the security of the United States and our allies.”

When the president was caught on an open mike last month telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more flexibility to deal with missile defense after this year’s election, Romney pounced. He did a mini media tour to suggest that the comments were troubling -- earning the candidate an indirect lashing from House Speaker John Boehner, who maintains a policy of not criticizing the president when he is representing the country abroad. Romney also called Russia the premiere “geopolitical foe” of the United States, which got him another warning -- this time from Medvedev.

Out of that flap came a suggestion from Team Romney that the president release transcripts of his meetings with foreign leaders. Campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul asserted: "Obama should release the notes and transcripts of all his meetings with world leaders so the American people can be satisfied that he’s not promising to sell out the country’s interests after the election is over.”

But that call was met with deep skepticism in Washington, particularly because Romney has lambasted the president for announcing timetables for withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan. In light of that criticism, why would a president release sensitive details concerning U.S. interests abroad?

The Democratic National Committee responded with a statement from Georgetown University scholar Colin Kahl, who previously served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East.

"Having been in many sensitive meetings with our allies around the world, the Romney campaign's comment shows a remarkable naiveté about foreign policy,” Kahl said.

"For example, does Governor Romney think we should release all the notes and transcripts of the president's conversations with our allies, such as the Israelis and Europeans, tipping our hand to Tehran about every last element of our strategy to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?”

And in satellite remarks to the AIPAC conference in March, Romney said, “The current administration has promoted a policy of engagement with Iran. The president even offered to sit down with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad during his first year in office without preconditions.”

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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