Advertisement
Politics

Romney's Foreign Policy Gambit

Unrest in the Middle East gives Romney an opening to ding Obama.

Heading into the crucial presidential debates, Mitt Romney is accusing President Barack Obama of projecting a weak image abroad and casting the commander in chief as the keeper of a Middle East policy that favors fiends over friends.

Give Romney some credit: While it may appear to be a desperate attempt to reboot his floundering campaign yet again, when he picks a fight, he doesn’t shy away from attacking Obama’s strength -- his foreign policy.

Advertisement - Article continues below

But give Obama some credit, too: Romney’s decision to challenge the president’s foreign policy signals the GOP nominee is waving the white flag on the one issue that should have been a slam dunk for the former Massachusetts governor -- the economy.

With 8.3% unemployment nationwide and last quarter’s GDP revised downward to 1.3%, well below where most economists had forecast it to be, international affairs has been Obama’s safe haven, at least until now. Renewed consumer confidence is generating a boost in Obama’s economic benchmark poll numbers, dulling the impact of Romney’s attacks in that arena.

Among the charges Romney is hurling at Obama, at the urging of his neoconservative national security advisers, are claims that the president has been too lenient on Iran, too short with Israel and too tolerant of China. Team Obama is rolling its eyes, but it’s also rolling the tape. The Chicago-based campaign has at least one trump card to play: highlighting headlines from Romney’s gaffe-filled trip abroad this summer that left European and Middle Eastern leaders wondering whether the Republican presidential hopeful is ready to assume a role on the international stage.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

“There are extraordinary events going on in the Middle East, and considering those events, either one of them or all of them collectively, as bumps in the road shows a person who has a very different perspective about world affairs than the perspective I have," Romney told NBC.

The debates present his best chance to draw blood, face-to-face with Obama. The second of three presidential debates will include foreign policy questions. The final showdown on October 22 in Boca Raton, Fla., will be dedicated exclusively to global issues.

It’s a difficult roll of the dice for Romney to go after the president who gave the order to take out Osama bin Laden. But trailing in so many must-win swing states, he has no choice but to take the gamble. It’s pretty much now or never, and at least Romney has a reason to hope that he can gain the traction that has so far eluded his campaign. For the first time since before the successful mission to take out bin Laden, voters are casting some doubt about Obama’s leadership abroad.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The American people consistently have given Obama the thumbs-up on his handling of foreign affairs. But the president’s foreign-policy approval rating took a five-point decline to 49% in an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll taken since turbulent anti-American protests swept across Middle Eastern capitals, including the devastating slaying of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya.

Of course, the opportunity to exploit a perceived weak spot offers no guarantee of success. Romney bungled his chance to chime in with any real authority by commenting before all the facts were known about the deadly disaster at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Romney attacked before he knew who was dead and how the dastardly deed was done. He was deemed a politically petty opportunist in the mainstream media, yet had he waited, he could have weighed in with some heft and could have scored his much-needed political points with dignity. For days after the protests, Romney’s handling of the events became the story.

Going forward, Romney must strike forcefully, and effectively, if he is going to convince Americans that foreign affairs are as important as the economy. That won’t be easy, of course, since economic issues still rank high with American voters.

But so far, Romney hasn’t offered a bold, new global initiative that Americans can grasp and that would let him slow Obama’s momentum. His stance is mostly criticism of Obama’s policies, rather than a legitimate alternative. Events beyond their control, like the monthly unemployment and quarterly productivity reports, give Romney the opening to swipe at the vulnerable Obama. It’s not quite a shameless schadenfreude strategy, but it’s close.

With reporting by Senior Associate Editor Richard Sammon

Advertisement

Most Popular

12 Tax Deadlines for July 15 (It's Not Just the Due Date for Your Tax Return)
tax deadline

12 Tax Deadlines for July 15 (It's Not Just the Due Date for Your Tax Return)

Between due dates for IRA or HSA contributions, paying estimated taxes and other deadlines, there's more to do by July 15 than just filing your federa…
July 10, 2020
65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On
stocks

65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On

These 65 Dividend Aristocrats are an elite group of dividend stocks that have reliably increased their annual payouts every year for at least a quarte…
July 8, 2020
Know Why Your Credit Score Changes: 9 Money Moves to Consider
credit & debt

Know Why Your Credit Score Changes: 9 Money Moves to Consider

Your credit score is a key indicator of your financial well-being and of the risk you pose to lenders. How good is yours?
July 10, 2020

Recommended

Travel Planning in the Time of Coronavirus
Travel

Travel Planning in the Time of Coronavirus

Insurance may not cover canceled vacations, but airlines and hotels may be flexible.
June 11, 2020
13 Things That May Soon Disappear Forever (The Pandemic Edition)
business

13 Things That May Soon Disappear Forever (The Pandemic Edition)

Emerging technologies (and now the COVID-19 pandemic) are putting an end to these familiar items and practices.
June 9, 2020
Don't Let the Drama Surrounding PPP Distract You from Running Your Business
business

Don't Let the Drama Surrounding PPP Distract You from Running Your Business

If you're so wrapped up in worry about your Paycheck Protection Program loan not being forgiven, think about the worst-case scenario. It might not be …
June 5, 2020
Another Epidemic to Worry About: Identity Theft
business

Another Epidemic to Worry About: Identity Theft

Fraud losses grew in 2019 and are likely to increase in 2020.
June 5, 2020