Sunday, October 21, 2012

Obama, beware of Romnesia on foreign policy tomorrow night

Noting that vast majorities of Americans of all parties favor less U.S. involvement in Middle East leadership changes, not more, Daniel Larison warns Romney:
The Pew survey result matches findings from other surveys about what U.S. policy towards Syria should be, which show support for sanctions and not much else. The 23% that favors more U.S. involvement in the politics of the region are very likely the same people who think the U.S. should be directly arming the Syrian opposition and bombing Syrian air defenses. Their preferences are also wrong on the merits, but these results show that there is no real electoral price to be paid by ignoring what they want. That 23% is the audience to which Romney has been pandering for the last several months, and he probably has almost all of their votes locked up anyway. If most viewers correctly perceive that Romney is the more aggressive, activist candidate on Syria and on other international issues, he will lose the debate. Insofar as the last debate has an effect on the outcome of the election, he will be sabotaging himself in the final weeks.
Given Romney's recent renewed facility with the Etch-A-Sketch, I take this more as a warning for Obama than for Romney: expect Romney to shape-shift on this front as he did on taxes during (and indeed before) the first debate.
It's generally understood that Romney has difficulty articulating substantive policy differences with Obama with regard to Middle East countries, except perhaps with regard to Israel, where the difference boils down to doing (or not doing) anything Netanyahu demands with enthusiasm as opposed to with occasional mild remonstrance.  Elsewhere, Romney's chief assertion of difference is  to call for more belligerent posturing.

The danger is that he's surrounded himself with neocons who got us into the Iraq debacle and has left himself less apparent daylight to negotiate with Iran. But other than threatening to go to war on a shorter fuse than Obama (a position he already tried to erase, before his campaign walked back the recalibration), and suggesting marginally more support for the Syrian rebels than Obama has publicly provided, Romney has not proposed concrete actions departing from Obama's policies, so resetting his rhetoric for a national audience should be comparatively easy.

Obama, be prepared to shift gears and affirm: I'm glad to note that Mr. Romney substantively approves of virtually all our actions and policies across the Middle East.

Related: Obama beware: Romney's tax plan is a moving target (Oct. 3, 8:35 p.m. ET)

Update: Kevin Drum and Jed Lewison also expect Romney to shake the Etch-A-Sketch tonight.

Update 2: Romney campaign is now equivocating about its commitment to up military spending by $2 trillion over 10 years (i.e., by raising defense spending to 4% of GDP by end of first term).

1 comment:

  1. There's another possibility besides Romney offering a "me, too" vision on FP, and trying thusly to take it off the table:

    He might morph in to Ron Paul, and try to paint Obama as the warmonger.

    Don't laugh. While the idea of Romney-the-pacifist is ridiculous, do you really think that there's any depth to which he will not pander?