Dan Drezner recommends Danielle Pletka’s foreign policy advice to Mitt Romney in the New York Times this weekend. So let’s take a look, shall we? Having “met him on a few occasions,” Pletka believes there really is more substance to Romney than his usual campaign nonsense about never apologizing for America. Here’s what he needs to do:
Mr. Romney needs to persuade people that he’s not simply a George W. Bush retread, eager to go to war in Syria and Iran and answer all the mail with an F-16. He needs to understand that even though Mr. Obama’s so-called pivot to Asia is more rhetorical flourish than actual policy, it responds to a crying need.
….Mr. Romney must make clear that he has a strategic view of American power that is different from the Obama administration’s narrow and tactical approach. He must tell Americans that he won’t overlook terrorist threats, as the Obama administration did in Benghazi; that he won’t fight to oust a dictator in Libya and ignore the pleas of another revolution in Syria; that he won’t simply denounce Iran’s nuclear program while tacitly legitimizing the country’s theocratic regime and ignoring its opponents; and that he won’t hand out billions of dollars in aid and debt forgiveness to Egypt’s new leaders when the principles of religious and political freedom are being trampled in the streets of Cairo.
Stop me if I’m wrong, but as near as I can tell Pletka says in one breath that Romney needs to make it clear that he’s not just a mindless hawk who’s eager to go to war with Syria and Iran, and in the next breath says that he needs to make it clear that he is eager to go to war with Syria and Iran. As Dan would say, am I missing something here?
More generally, I’m really, really tired of the whole “advice to Mitt Romney” column genre. They’re all basically identical: telling him he needs to do things that he has very plainly, very consciously decided he can’t do if he wants to win the election. He can’t beat the tar out of Obama in every stump speech because his focus groups show that independents don’t like it. He can’t provide details of his tax plan because all those deductions he wants to get rid of are popular with independents. He can’t get more specific on foreign policy because his base demands hawkishness but independents really don’t want to hear that. He can’t speak honestly to the American people about entitlement reform because independents don’t want to hear that their Medicare benefits are going to be cut. Etc.
Bottom line: all that stuff that columnists think would resonate like the ringing of the Liberty Bell? It won’t, and Romney knows it. He knows perfectly well that the actual details of conservative policy aren’t very popular at the moment, so he’s fudging things. It’s his only chance to win. Conservative columnists ought to be smart enough to know that.