Tonight We Will See the Foreign Policy Version of Moderate Mitt

| Mon Oct. 22, 2012 10:10 AM EDT

Ed Kilgore examines Mitt Romney's options in the foreign policy debate tonight:

Consider the advice offered to Romney for tonight's debate by the New York Times' Bill Keller. Here are the headlines: (1) Go easy on Benghazi; (2) Say Something nice About the Palestinians; (3) Extend a hand to Mohamed Morsi; (4) Concede that the war in Iraq was a mistake; (5) Don't rush into Syria; (6) Open the door to a deal with Iran; (7) Apply some Bain rigor to defense; and (8) Cool it on China.

....But how does a presidential candidate who has repeatedly and heatedly and redundantly defined America's interests in the Middle East as identical with those of Bibi Netanyahu do (2) and (6)? How does the nominee of a party whose base is for the most part quite happy with the idea of American foreign policy being organized around a straight out war against Islam going to do (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), or (6)? Can a candidate who's been running around Hampton Roads telling voters that they'll all starve if the defense budget is allowed to decline an iota suddenly get Bain-ish on Pentagon spending?

Ed, Ed, Ed: where has your right and proper cynicism gone? Of course Romney will do most of these things. How? Why, he'll just open his mouth and say the words. He'll be careful not to phrase any of this stuff in the form of concrete promises, but Romney is obviously dedicated to his Moderate Mitt persona when he's on a national stage, and I don't doubt that he'll find a way to extend this tonight. For the record, I don't think he'll go as far as #4, and I don't think he needs to rein in his instincts on #8, which is a fairly popular position. But the rest of them? With the proper nuances and caveats, none of them should cause him a problem. I'm not quite sure what strategy he'll pursue on Benghazi (I suspect that cooling it would be a good idea, but I'm hardly 100% sure of that), but that's the only question mark. The rest of this stuff is easy to fudge.