Mitt Romney’s greatest liability heading into the fall campaign has been his well-earned reputation for flip-flopping on the issues. That’s why last week’s gaffe by longtime Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, in which he described the “reset” of his Republican primary campaign to a more centrist one in the general election as similar to an Etch A Sketch toy, was so telling. But though that line will dog Romney all the way to November, President Obama has now supplied the GOP with one that will more than balance it.
Though his unscripted “hot mic” moment with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has been rightly excoriated as evidence of the president’s feckless foreign policy principles, it is also one that should take a bit of the fizz out of the Democrat’s attempt to portray Romney as a phony. While it is fair to judge Romney as someone who might be adjusting his campaign rhetoric for a general audience after tilting to the right when trying to win his party’s nomination, Obama’s promised post-election tilt to the left ought to scare the electorate even more.
Thomas Friedman’s rants about foreign policy on the op-ed page of the New York Times are generally predictable if not particularly insightful. But today’s installment is original in one respect. In it he references an article in the National Review by respected conservative scholar Victor Davis Hanson. Hanson gives a laundry list of American foreign policy failures in the Middle East and concludes that maybe America should just realize that all of the existing theories about the Arab and Muslim world are fatally flawed. Hanson is generally right, but what rings false about Friedman’s praise for the piece is that in doing so he fails to acknowledge his own support for some of those failed approaches. He also slyly tries to include one other aspect of American policy in the list of failures that was conspicuous by its absence from Hanson’s article: support for Israel.
It’s true that, as Hanson points out:
Military assistance or punitive intervention without follow-up mostly failed. The verdict on far more costly nation-building is still out. Trying to help popular insurgents topple unpopular dictators does not guarantee anything better. Propping up dictators with military aid is both odious and counterproductive. Keeping clear of maniacal regimes leads to either nuclear acquisition or genocide — or 16 acres of rubble in Manhattan.
But in endorsing this sobering judgment, Friedman fails to note that he has served for the last 20 years as a faithful advocate for the foreign policy “realism” that he criticizes. Nor does he have the guts to point out that his best-selling “flat earth” theories about how economic concerns will trump those of religion and nationalism in the 21st century have been shown to be as laughably out of touch with the reality of the Middle East as any other.