On VP List, Pawlenty & Portman Boast Foreign Policy Heft

By Erin McPike - July 18, 2012

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Pawlenty started with a trip to Canada in 2003, followed by a mission to Poland and the Czech Republic in 2004 and China in 2005. In his second term, he hit India in 2007, Israel in 2008, Brazil and Chile in 2009, and China and Japan in 2010. He also visited Spain and England in 2008.

In addition, Pawlenty traveled to Iraq five times as governor, to Afghanistan thrice, to Kosovo twice and to Bosnia once to visit troops stationed at American military installations.

What’s more, foreign policy experts say that when Pawlenty was governor, he became the first high-profile American official to force on a major company a choice between Iran and the United States, giving him some experience in handling sanctions.

Pawlenty’s former spokesman Brian McClung added, “During his presidential campaign, he made foreign policy a priority, delivering the first major foreign policy address of any candidate at the Council on Foreign Relations on June 28, 2011.”

And the former Minnesota governor didn’t abandon foreign policy after ending his presidential bid. McClung added: “In October 2011, he led an [International Republican Institute] election monitoring team to observe Tunisia’s first elections since the Arab Spring. In December 2011, he attended the [European People’s Party] Congress in Marseilles and delivered remarks on the Arab Spring. He spoke on two panels at the 2012 Brussels Forum and delivered remarks on American foreign policy in March at the Legatum Institute in London.”


Bobby Jindal would bring some international flair to the ticket because he was raised by Indian immigrants who came to the United States six months before he was born. Jindal has spent time overseas, as well, as a Rhodes scholar.

But as an elected official, his travel has been limited. As a congressman from 2005-2008, he visited Vietnam, India, Thailand and Singapore in 2006, and he traveled to Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2005.

Since returning from Washington to run his home state, however, he has not gone abroad in an official capacity. It is important to note, of course, that Louisiana has had its share of problems, including the BP oil spill, that Jindal has needed to address. And for his efforts, he has received accolades.

Still, Jindal has not been on a trade mission to attract business to his state -- a gubernatorial trait he shares with Romney.

“The Governor has been very successful at attracting economic development projects here by cutting taxes and creating an economic environment where businesses want to invest and create jobs. For instance, Southern Business & Development magazine named Louisiana ‘State of the Year’ for economic development three years in a row,” said Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin.

Nevertheless, Jindal might not have to worry about his foreign policy deficiencies.

GOP strategist John Weaver, who advised McCain and later Jon Huntsman (who ran unsuccessfully for president this cycle upon his return as ambassador to China), doesn’t think foreign policy will factor into Romney’s VP choice.

Weaver told RCP: “You would think having foreign policy experience would be vital, given the fact we are in one hot war in Afghanistan, we have a growing problem with an erratic Iran, and foreign trade and commerce are vital to our economy. Yet, unless there is a surprise selection, we Republicans will have a ticket with the least amount of foreign and national security policy experience since World War II. Having said that, the weak economy is driving all focus and will continue to do so until there is a crisis, at which time the lack of experience could be problematic if it occurs before the election.” 

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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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