Mitt Romney is taking the world by storm. That is, if Europe and Israel are the world. Sorry everyone else!
Romney, much like President Barack Obama in 2008, is pulling out all the stops before the November election. Starting July 27, his campaign will meet with key American allies in an attempt to tout his foreign policy know-how. The presumptive Republican presidential candidate will visit Great Britain, Israel, Germany, and Poland to build the brand of the U.S. under a Romney administration – and to argue it will be better than the current administration’s policies.
In a phrase, Romney seeks money and votes.
To those not as familiar with this field, which is quite a few, the tour might be a good idea, and Romney might even turn some skeptical heads his way. But for voters who follow foreign policy, can the trip satisfy the yearning for a more internationally savvy Romney sans Bain Capital?
His lack of foreign policy expertise does hurt his case, though Obama was in the same boat four years earlier. But now that the president actually has foreign policy experience, Romney needs to make up a lot of ground to get voters on his train.
Unfortunately, his itinerary is not earth-shattering and lacks a certain flare. Romney is playing it safe –– as he should –– but that seems to be his M.O. anyway and I’m not convinced this will get the job done. Still, it is important to understand why Romney’s camp selected these states and what he can get out of this tour.
Great Britain: This is really a no-brainer. I’ll spare you the “special relationship” spiel, but it does help that the Brits are key allies in the anti-terror campaigns worldwide, that they follow the same line on most foreign policy issues, and typically back American opinion at the United Nations. The U.S. and British were and still are pretty chummy - maybe not as chummy as Bush and Blair, but still pretty tight. Not to mention, Romney plans on attending fundraisers by wealthy American ex-pats in London and give a speech on U.S. foreign policy. Plus, the Olympics are in town, and Romney will take in the spirit of the games. I say why not just give a speech to the entire Olympic Village and call it a day?
Israel: Another no-brainer and another “special relationship” that needs little introduction. Romney’s plan is to meet with Israeli Prime Minister and Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition party members, as well leaders of the Palestinian Authority. Israel is a bipartisan foreign policy matter – it is standard ritual, particularly during election years, that Republicans and Democrats try to outdo each other’s admiration for Israel. Make no mistake: Romney loves Israel. Given the supposed alienation the Obama administration placed on Israel – he has not visited the Jewish state as president – Romney will seek to put things back on track. He’ll also speak about Syria and Iran,Obama’s lack of action, and what he will do differently. Romney will attend another fundraiser and hope to endear himself to Jewish American ex-pats in Jerusalem.
Germany: The Western European – not to mention global – financial juggernaut that Germany is makes it a prime state to visit by any American presidential candidate. The U.S. and Germany share many of the same values; the U.S. has a large military base in the state, and like Britain and Israel, Germany is a key anti-terror ally. Germany’s handling of the euro crisis makes this trip especially prudent for Romney. The austerity measures that German Chancellor Angela Merkel insists many in the Euro Zone – Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Spain, etc. – should implement comes from the same vein as the cost-cutting measures Romney would push for in the U.S., unlike Obama’s stimulus. If Romney does see Merkel, it will be a meeting of like-minds.
Poland: I actually like this choice for Romney. It appears to be an outlier on the surface, but Romney can accomplish a few items at once in Poland. He can reestablish American democratic solidarity with the Polish people and give a stern warning to Putin’s Russia. Romney will most likely use Obama’s backtracking on the missile shield from Poland as primed for reversal; it does help that Romney has gone on record as calling Russia “No. 1 geopolitical foe,” according to Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin of Politico. Eastern Europe remains fertile ground for increased American influence in the face of a resurgent and resource-rich Russia, and this trip should emphasize reinvigorated American military and political power under a Romney administration.
Aside from the tour, Romney may take other avenues to increase his foreign policy status, but none of them are clear winners. He can surround himself with experts – Obama did, snagging many from the Clinton administration. Romney is doing just that, albeit gathering hawks and neocons from the George W. Bush era, though it may not be a good idea, as Jamelle Bouie of The American Prospect notes. Choosing a close ally, like a vice-presidential candidate, and if elected, members of the Cabinet with extensive foreign policy experience can also help. But again, it depends on how the experience – and even name recognition – tastes in the mouth of the American voter. We may have a short memory, but for all the foreign policy mishaps of the last decade, it is prudent we do remember.
I just don’t see Romney winning this category. Despite my skepticism, his trip will be fascinating to behold...unless you are watching America in all her Olympic glory and forget about the tour. USA! USA! USA!