By Robert Schlesinger |
For four decades Republicans gleefully aimed their strong national defense agenda at the Democratic Party, but President Barack Obama's actions in office are denying the GOP a vulnerable target. The killing of Osama bin Laden is President Obama's most obvious talking point in this rhetorical battle, but that achievement is really only the post that anchors the protective fence Obama erected on national security. The president ended the war in Iraq. He is ratcheting down the war in Afghanistan and ratcheted up the number of drone strikes at terrorist targets, mostly co-opting the entire national security establishment on the right. The most fertile patch from which to attack Obama on security issues is to his left, but Mitt Romney dare not argue for closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp or reigning in the creeping octopus of electronic surveillance.
Instead Romney attacks President Obama from the shaky sliver of ground on his right. He argues the president is not standing with Israel firmly enough or rattling the American war saber at Iran loudly enough to stop it from building a nuclear weapon. The problem for Romney is that there is little policy he can propose short of attacking Iranian nuclear sites right now that differs substantially from President Obama's approach. The Stuxnet computer virus that reportedly originated with western intelligence services set the Iranian effort back substantially, and the sanctions that American diplomats have organized our allies to support are strangling Iran economically. Besides, unless there is a significant incident before November, most Americans don't seem to care much about the short-term jostling over Iranian nukes.
Romney has been a wobbly warrior even when left to his own machinations. He flubbed his own foreign policy tour when he insulted Great Britain while visiting London for the Olympics and offended the Palestinians while in the Holy Land by putting the onus for their economic woes in the territories on their culture instead of the policy problems of the region.
In the last couple of weeks Americans witnessed an amazing flip on the foreign policy front at the political conventions. Romney didn't mention the current war in Afghanistan at all while Democrats reminded America at every opportunity that "General Motors is alive and Osama bin Laden is dead." With just a few weeks left before Election Day, it is hard to see what arrow Romney has in his national security quiver that will penetrate Obama's foreign policy shield.
About Jamal Simmons Principal at The Raben Group
Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
Jason Edwards Associate Professor at Bridgewater State University
Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College