Steve Coll manages to put his finger on additional and very substantial proof of Romney's wimpiness. As a candidate, Romney is expected to demonstrate that he can handle our relationship with the rest of the world. But he didn't just screw up in London and Israel, he picked the wrong trip!
Coll reviews candidate Obama's choices of foreign policy trip during the 2008 campaign. A reminder:
In 2008, Obama’s itinerary was as effective as his performance. He visited Europe to signal a renewed relationship with traditional allies and the Middle East to signal his intense disagreements with George W. Bush and McCain. Obama had promised to end the war in Iraq—a war that Bush had initiated and McCain had championed—and the tour made clear that he, a lightly credentialled senator, fully intended to bring the troops home, but also that he would lead when necessary at the front lines. In facing McCain, a former P.O.W., Obama established both difference and resolve.
Contrast that trip with Mitt Romney's choices -- and, of course, his performance in the UK and Israel. Romney had much better options. But he wimped out.
Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, lacks a defining foreign-policy disagreement with the President, which makes an overseas campaign trip more problematic. Romney has criticized Obama’s approach to missile-defense negotiations with Russia and the timing of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, but those dissents are very nuanced. More pointedly, Romney has criticized Obama for failing to speak out quickly and ardently enough when pro-democracy demonstrators in Iran took to the streets three years ago; similarly, he has accused the President of timidity in the face of Syria’s popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
These critiques suggested exotic possibilities: Romney might have visited wounded Syrian refugees in Turkey; he might have gone to southern Tunisia, where the fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze two years ago this December, initiating the Arab Spring. ...Steve Coll, New Yorker
But such boldness does not seem to be part of Romney’s makeup.
During his stay in Israel, he became yet another lock-step armchair warrior in the same disgraced community as Dick Cheney and John Bolton. The Republican party's habit of embracing the profits of war but dodging military service is now a well-established tradition -- as petty as panty raids but as serious as America's increasingly influential and corrupt defense industry.
Romney is likely to have some trouble undermining the President’s record on national-security issues and foreign policy. Last week, in Colorado, Admiral William McRaven, a Navy SEAL who oversees all American Special Forces, and who supervised the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, was asked to evaluate Obama as a Commander-in-Chief. “I’m not a political guy,” McRaven stipulated. Still, he offered a crisp judgment of Obama’s performance: “Fantastic.” He went on to say that the President and his advisers value facts, take professional advice, and make careful judgments, adding, “I’m very impressed.”...Steve Coll, New Yorker
The areas in which Romney shows any competence have narrowed to one: jobs/economy. But even employment and finance may crumble as quickly as "foreign policy" when the focus returns to Romney as a jobs and money management guy.
Romney may yet win the White House. Not surprisingly, he has centered his campaign almost solely on the economy and the high unemployment rate. Still, there is a growing perception, even among some of Romney’s own supporters, that, although the slack economy favors his prospects, the character he projects—unfocussed and unmoored to any developed principles—undermines him. By November, the particulars of his summer tour may have faded from voters’ memories, but the questions he has presented about his constancy and independence of mind could persist and defeat him. ...Steve Coll, New Yorker