By Teresa Welsh |
Dog on the roof has run its course. Bain blame has fizzled. Granny off the cliff no longer packs a lot of punch.
Given most domestic issues are off the table because either voters haven't responded or President Obama's record leaves much to be desired, the president's re-election team has identified a new target: Mitt Romney as foreign-policy cipher.
He has no experience, the president's men charge. He had nothing to do with killing Osama bin Laden. His overseas exposure amounts to living two years in France during his Latter Day Saints Mission and a whirlwind tour of Europe and the Middle East this summer. And he didn't even mention foreign policy or the troops in his speech two weeks ago in Tampa.
Polls show President Obama leads by 14 points on the question of who better to handle foreign policy. About the only way he can blow this lead is to pursue this line of attack. The more voters learn what President Obama has "accomplished," the better Romney's blank slate will look.
The Romney campaign sensed this in the foreign policy memo it released on the day of President Obama's speech in Charlotte. The president promised to stop Iran's bid for a nuclear weapon, the memo pointed out; Iran is now dangerously close to achieving this. Its haste to leave Iraq and Afghanistan, although popular with the liberal base, has proven extremely imprudent. Iraq is racked by violence that rivals the immediate postwar period and now allows Iran to use its airspace to transport supplies to Syria. The Taliban is strengthening again in Afghanistan knowing its strongest foes—the Americans—are scheduled to leave within two years.
Moreover, the White House has become a sieve of self-serving, security-compromising leaks. The president has alienated Israel and Great Britain, our two most reliable allies, and has allowed Iran, China, and others to expand their influence among the anti-U.S. dictators of Latin America. Our relationship with Pakistan, frequently complicated but always crucial, is now the worst it's ever been. And, as the memo points out, there is no corner of the world where America's acceptance has grown under President Obama.
Beyond that, Romney also should point out the differences in how the two have handled themselves before being elected president. Candidate Obama made crazy promises he had to abandon once he assumed office. He called for closing Guantanamo although no alternative was—or has been to this day—identified. He promised to dismantle the PATRIOT Act and other security measures, only to find out he couldn't. The one promise he has attempted to keep—unilateral withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan—looks worse each day.
Romney will have some opportunity to educate voters during the debates. But his strategy should be to rope in foreign policy with other policy areas in which the president has acted unwisely and to build a narrative that says, "We let the kids have a chance. The mess got worse. Time for the adults to clean it up."
About 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