As the campaign season goes on, GOP nominee Mitt Romney finds himself in a tight situation, trailing President Barack Obama in nearly all of the issues. One weakness of his campaign, in particular, is the public's view of his capability to tackle foreign policy.
According to a Pew Research Center poll conducted between September 12 and 16, President Obama leads Romney in "dealing with problems in the Middle East" by 11 points, and in "making wise decisions on foreign policy" by 15 points. Similar point differences exist in three coveted swing states. On the question, "Regardless of how you intend to vote, who do you think would do a better job on foreign policy, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?," Romney trails by 10, 13, and 16 points in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania respectively, according to a September 26 Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll.
At a time when our country struggles to identify our goals in the Middle East, any presidential hopeful lagging in the polls would try to capitalize on the current state of affairs and persuade voters that his policies are in the best interests of America. Yet, when the opportunity presented itself to Romney, he unfortunately squandered it.
While these may be valid arguments against Obama's foreign policy, Romney's op-ed struggles with two necessary aspects of a quality argument: inclusion of necessary facts and a coherent presentation of his own ideas. Without either, it's just rhetoric (e.g. "descends into chaos," and "pulled into the maelstrom") that doesn't amount to much substance.
The most egregious mistake of this essay, however, is its lack of novelty. Romney spent over half his essay telling readers what they already know: the Middle East faces many problems, that the U.S. is linked to many of them, and that we face challenges at home with our economy and rising national debt. Romney spends so much space rehashing that he doesn't even get to laying out the steps toward good foreign policy until the end of the piece. When he does get around to it, he writes simply, "But this Middle East policy will be undermined unless we restore the three sinews of our influence: our economic strength, our military strength and the strength of our values. That will require a very different set of policies from those President Obama is pursuing." (Yes, I'd assume that's why you're challenging him for president…) Romney's explanation is entirely too brief and without any clear indication of what initiatives he would like to implement as president to ease the tensions in the Middle East.
If he spent half as much time developing his own policy prescriptions as he did with his warnings about the inadequacies of his opponent's policies, perhaps he wouldn't be doing so poorly in the polls, at least on foreign policy. Instead, we simply get a statement like this: "We needed a strategy for success, but the president offered none."
Well, that's ironic.
Because, in this piece, neither did Romney.