Tag: campaign 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

An Analysis of the Foreign-Policy Content of Romney’s Convention Speech

Here is a word cloud of the speech’s foreign-policy content:

In this case, the cloud adds virtually nothing to our understanding, as the entire section is only 202 words long.

Below is the section itself. It appears that the speechwriters pulled random posts off of PJ Media, stuck them in a blender, and were satisfied with the results.

I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No Mr. President, America has freed other nations from dictators. 

Every American was relieved the day President Obama gave the order, and Seal Team Six took out Osama bin Laden. But on another front, every American is less secure today because he has failed to slow Iran’s nuclear threat. 

In his first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran. We’re still talking, and Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning. 

President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus, even as he has relaxed sanctions on Castro’s Cuba. He abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from our missile defense commitments, but is eager to give Russia’s President Putin the flexibility he desires, after the election. Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone. 

We will honor America’s democratic ideals because a free world is a more peaceful world. This is the bipartisan foreign policy legacy of Truman and Reagan. And under my presidency we will return to it once again.

As some have noted, the section is particularly notable for the absence of Afghanistan. That’s correct. The US is currently fighting a war and it rated not a single mention in the speech of the GOP nominee for President. We are through the looking glass, people.

Despite my snide comments, I think there’s an important debate to be had over how the Washington calibrates its relationship with Moscow. But what worries me about Romney is that the only setting seems to be ‘major geo-political threat,‘ which overestimates both Russian strength and US weakness while foreclosing opportunities for cooperation based on mutual interest. Such an approach won’t lead Russia to change any of the policies that nettle US policymakers, and may make Moscow even more difficult to deal with. We’ve been there and done that in the second Bush term, and it didn’t work out well for anyone.

The Romney team also have a point about Poland. The administration botched the rollout of PHAAD and the cancellation of the “third site” BMD program. Warsaw was, in fact, pretty upset. But that was three years ago; I’m not sure why “No-Apologies Mitt” feels compelled to keep on apologizing for it. Still, I am not entirely clear on why the administration continues to negotiate with Moscow on BMD beyond the theory that it is better to keep them talking even as the program goes forward.

Romney’s inadequate genuflections toward foreign-policy issues reflect their marginal place in this campaign. What little we’ve learned suggests a factually-challenged view of the Obama Administration’s foreign-policy rhetoric. It also appears to signal a commitment to the views that captured Bush foreign policy after September 11, 2001.

Neither of these are good things, but they don’t necessarily tell us much about how Romney will lead the United States in the world. As PTJ and I recently discussed, this is more about value articulation and commitment than substantive policy… which pretty much sums up not only Romney’s speech but also the general idiom of a campaign loathe to focus on programatic details.

In some ways, the most momentous foreign-policy line was Romney’s applause-line on climate change.

President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans. And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.

At one level, this was a pretty good dig at Obama: it nicely crystalized the idea that Obama promised the moon but delivered a eight-percent unemployment rate. But it also signposts one of the most consequential ways that we’ve failed our children — and the important role played by the modern Republican party in that failure. Perhaps, if elected, Romney will be able to move his party to where he stood but a few years ago. If so, that will outweigh a great deal.


Can We Take Politico Out Back and Shoot it Yet?

Jonathan Martin in the outlet that makes CNN look like The Monkey Cage.

The South, like the rest of the country, is a complicated place. It’s at once the heart of the Obama resistance but also a region that is crucial to his reelection hopes. If he loses Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, it’s a virtual certainty that he’ll be a one-term president. Look for no further explanation as to why the Democratic convention is being held in Charlotte, the prototypical New South city, than the importance of North Carolina to the Obama White House.

Oh, for the love of Odin, Tyr, and Freyja. Seriously…?

Here’s what happens if Obama loses Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and we also spot Romney wins in Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire:


Bear cam

Have you wasted any time viewing Bear cam? This Wired story explains:

Media company Explore has teamed up with Alaska’s Katmai National Park to install webcams that will deliver live video feeds of brown bears catching salmon in a popular feeding ground.

Each year, around a hundred bears travel to a stretch of Brooks River to fill their bellies with salmon. Now anyone with an internet connection can witness this gathering thanks to four high-definition cameras that have been set up in this remote part of Alaska. 

One camera is positioned at Brook Falls, where the larger male bears fight it out for salmon that are desperately trying to leap their way upstream.

This is the link to that camera: Brown Bear & Salmon Cam – Brooks Falls – Bears – explore

Warning: this is highly addictive.

Compare that to this 1980 Reagan campaign commercial to see how far we’ve progressed in our tolerance for bears (right?):

Yesterday, I watched as two bears postured somewhat violently towards one another. Meanwhile, a nearby bear was dining on salmon. This demonstrated that the two in the foreground learned nothing from the 2012 Republican primaries.


Should Romney Talk More About Foreign Policy?

In these summer months while we wait for the Olympics to start and for Romney to pick his VP candidate, the foreign policy cognoscenti has started in on Mitt Romney’s campaign with conflicting advice about whether or not his announced foreign policy trip this later this summer is worthwhile and whether or not the Republican nominee should spend much time talking about the issue.

While as a citizen and foreign policy wonk, I want our prospective commander in chief to fill in the details of what he might do, as an observer of politics, I’m not sure it makes nearly as much sense for a number of reasons. So, should Mitt say more on foreign policy or stay focused on the economy?

Dan Drezner makes the argument that Romney has done himself some serious damage by allowing hawkish but lite press releases to create a bad impression thus far. He suggests that more talk of foreign policy would be good for the country from a democratic governance perspective but also good for the candidate:

In op-ed after op-ed, Romney has relied on blowhard rhetoric and a near-total absence of detail to make his case. In doing so, Romney is the one who has sowed the doubts about his foreign policy gravitas in the first place. If his campaign manages to produce a successful foreign policy speech/road trip, he can dial down one source of base criticism — and focus again on the economy in the fall. 

Dan concedes it may not be especially smart politics for Mitt given that (1) foreign policy is a low priority for the public and that (2) the people may not be buying what he’s selling. However, he still thinks it’s a good idea given the self-inflicted wounds that Romney has incurred by talking tough about Russia being our top geopolitical adversary, among other questionable statements:

Politically, a well-executed foreign policy trip won’t net him a lot of votes, but it would cauterize a festering political wound and allow him to pivot back to the economy.

I suppose it is true that presidential candidates have to meet some sort of basic threshold test on foreign policy. Certainly, Sarah Palin failed that test last time and that may have hurt the McCain ticket on the margins. While anecdotal, I know of some friends who were McCain supporters who just could not vote for that ticket based on their concerns about Palin. That said, I don’t think Romney’s missteps on foreign policy are anywhere near Palin territory for undermining his foreign policy credentials. Language like “festering political wound” strikes me as overwrought.

Commentators have raised a variety of arguments about why Romney should not talk about foreign policy, from the unpopularity of his support for the war in Afghanistan to the limited political rewards of talking about foreign policy before an electorate even less interested than normal in the subject area (see the Cato Institute’s Justin Logan for one perspective along these lines and Daniel Larison for another).

I have two conflicting thoughts about Romney and foreign policy talk that perhaps have not been put forward.

Intermestic Issues
First, the rise of “intermestic” issues, of issues with both a domestic and international content, makes it harder for Romney to avoid talking about them. Here, I’m thinking of both global economic policy and energy, issues with enormous significance for the domestic agenda at home. Remaining silent on the EU crisis and its significance for the United States, beyond dismissive anti-European posturing (while at the same time embracing European austerity policies), may ultimately have some electoral repercussions if Obama can exploit it.

The Challenge of Running to Obama’s Right
However, Romney may have trouble running to the President’s right on foreign policy. There simply is not much room there. The President killed Osama Bin Laden and has extended the drone wars on America’s enemies in ways that look like a continuation of the previous administration. Romney cannot go too far “right” on foreign policy without looking like he’s inviting war with Iran or encouraging a deep freeze in relations with Russia and China.

Romney has repudiated the compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush on foreign aid, the one area where the previous administration received almost universal plaudits with its support for global health and efforts to address HIV/AIDS.

Sure, Romney could embrace the Ron Paul anti-interventionist wing of the Republican Party and create clear blue water between himself and the President, but that would require a more herculean flip-flop on defense spending than even Romney is capable of.

So, Mitt is left in the unenviable position of trying to create policy distance with the President for political reasons (he can’t just endorse a “me too” foreign policy, Obama certainly didn’t do that as candidate) without, at the same time, looking unpresidential in a Palinite or Goldwateresque way. Given the President’s ability to play the Bin Laden card, I say to Romney, talk about foreign policy all you want, but lots of luck with that!


Primary Politics and Foreign Policy: Super Tuesday Edition

This is cross-posted from the University of Texas website.

As the March 6 Super Tuesday Republican primary looms, foreign policy issues understandably are likely to play a marginal role in the decisions of most voters. Since the middle of 2008, Gallup pollshave found that more than 60 percent of voters identified economic issues as the most important problem facing the country. In their February 2012 poll, for example, less than a half a percent of Americans identified either terrorism or conflict/war in the Middle East as their top concern.

Does that mean that foreign policy concerns are unimportant in the primary and the general election? Not exactly. With Osama Bin Laden and a number of other top-level terrorists dead, Democrats are hopeful that President Barack Obama has made foreign policy a non-issue. However, both the nature of the GOP primary and events may yet bring both foreign policy issues and a variety of “intermestic” (part international/part domestic) issues like gasoline prices to the fore.

GOP Primary Dynamics and Foreign Policy
All the Republican hopefuls are saying things about foreign policy on the campaign trail to try to appeal to the 8-10 percent of the party faithful that have turned out in the primaries thus far (even less in caucus states like Maine where less than 1 percent of the electorate turned out).  It doesn’t appear that these primary-goers are any more concerned about foreign policy than the rest of the public (the economy dominates the exit and entrance polls as the top concern), but they certainly tend to be conservative on average. In South Carolina, 68 percent of the voters self identified as very (36 percent) or somewhat conservative (32 percent). In Iowa, that combined percentage was fully 84 percent.

With a conservative leaning electorate and foreign policy concerns only weakly salient, the default position for most of the Republican candidates appears to be the old stand-by of being strong on defense. In practice, this means opposing any cuts to defense spending, supporting continued military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and potentially backing a new military conflict with Iran.

Front-runner Mitt Romney has used the charged language of “appeasement” in describing the Obama administration. Governor Romney’s language seems to be emblematic of the wider GOP field’s effort to use harsh rhetoric in describing President Obama. Perhaps the candidates feel compelled to make up for the enthusiasm gapthat has emerged as Republicans survey the candidates they have before them.

Ultimately, I think this hyperbole on foreign policy will ultimately fall flat in the general election. For the first time in recent memory, the GOP enjoys a semi-serious anti-war candidate in Congressman Ron Paul. At a time when even Republican primary voters overwhelmingly are concerned about the state of the U.S. economy, it’s unclear whether pledges by the leading candidates to ratchet up defense spending and sustain expensive military engagements are popular with the party base.

Events:  A Week is A Long Time in Politics

Even if foreign policy seemingly is a secondary concern in the upcoming election, events on the world stage may change that calculation. Among the issues, the situation in Iran in particular threatens to bring foreign policy front and center.

Relations over Iran’s nuclear program have deteriorated such that observers are increasingly talking about whether or not Israel will launch an attack on Iran, potentially drawing in the United States.

Bipartisan legislative efforts have sought to restrict the President’s room for maneuver with respect to Iran. One piece of legislation in the Senate rejects any containment policy of a nuclear Iran, which would make it almost impossible for the U.S. not to go to war with Iran if it did in fact possess nuclear weapons. These maneuvers and others may box the president in, making conflict more likely or triggering some other effects that could upend the country’s fragile recovery.

For example, the sanctions bill that passed the Senate in late 2011 was intended to force the president to cut off any public or private institution from access to the United States if it does business with Iran’s central bank. The president was to decide by the end of February whether to impose these rules, subject to some discretion about the volume of oil in the market and whether states have reduced their oil transactions with Iran.  Just last week, the administration deferred actionpending further investigation.

With Europe to begin an embargo on Iran’s oil by July 1 and Iran saber rattling about cutting off oil supplies to other European countries, oil prices may spike.  As the U.S. economy has shown signs of recovery, the Republican candidates have pivoted to talk about rising gas prices as one of their key issues. Soaring gas prices may pose both a threat to the recovery and the president’s re-election. Newt Gingrich, in an effort to energize his faltering campaign, has pledged to restore $2.50 a gallon gas.

So, even as domestic issues loom large, the nature of the Republican primary and world events over the summer may make foreign policy a more pressing concern come fall. We’ll have to see how it all plays out.


Damn Yankees!

Wow. South Carolina took a cane to the “Mormon Massachusetts Moderate” last night. This moves Nate Silver to write a longish post comparing the conventional wisdom (now embodied by my colleague, Hans Noel, and his co-authors) with the “This time it’s different” crowd, in which Silver makes not a single, tiny, one-off mention of Citizens United. I’m not saying that it’s certain that Newt’s rich friends dumping millions of dollars through independent, pristine, non-corrupting, corporations-are-people-too UberPacs  into a relatively small media market might have impacted the race (we’ll wait for the capital-P, capital-S Political Scientists to prove it… or not)

Meanwhile, Romney has decided to heed campaign 101 and avoid the drip, drip, drip of TaxAvoidanceGate by releasing all of his returns his 2010 returns. Maybe Mitt can blow this, after all.

Romney: A Charmed Life

The McCain opposition-research file circulating on the internet (if genuine) is just devastating in its picture of a man without any convictions whatsoever. It makes one thing crystal clear: Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee, and quite possibly our next President, because he faced a GOP field made up of incompetent, unserious, and underfunded rivals. A serious contender would have eviscerated him.

Many of the positions that should have made him toxic to the Republican base will be far less damaging the context of a general election. Still, the total insincerity of the man has to be a liability. While my structuralist instincts tell me that Romney has an extremely good shot at becoming President, my “campaigns matter” side whispers that, if up against a halfway competent Obama organization, this guy is toast.

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