Making Foreign Policy an Issue
Posted by Jacob Stokes
Rich Fontaine argues on Tom Ricks’s blog that foreign policy will matter it the election. After the usual disclaimers about how economic issues will be front and center, Fontaine writes:
This does not mean, however, that voters will not consider foreign policy as they enter the voting booth. Both eventual candidates, the incumbent president included, will have to demonstrate to the electorate that they pass the commander-in-chief credibility threshold. They must demonstrate that they have the knowledge, the temperament, the skills and the wisdom to lead a superpower in times of both peril and plenty. If they can cross this threshold, they will still have to make a winning case on domestic issues. If they cannot, no amount of focus on the American pocketbook will salvage their chances. Foreign policy will matter in 2012.
Fontaine is probably too unequivocal when he says no amount of focus on economic issues can outperform the commander-in-chief factor. But his main point, that national security will surely matter, stands.
The Obama campaign thinks so, too, writes Michael Hirsh in the National Journal. Hirsh reports that the campaign plans to present Obama as the toughest national security president since Kennedy – what’s called the “3 AM strategy,” which of course refers to the crisis situations each president will inevitably confront. Clearly Obama campaign staffers have been reading their Nate Silver.
Hirsh’s piece goes through the huge amount of evidence and public support Obama has on his side when it comes to national security. For that, read the piece. It’s well worth it. The piece includes a quote from Michael Lagon, a former George W. Bush administration official, saying Obama is, in some ways, more sure-footed than the elder Bush.
Hirsh’s encapsulation of the campaign’s argument against his opponents is telling as well:
Meanwhile, the administration has been busy preparing a bill of particulars against Romney (and now one against Gingrich). “Romney has said he would have left tens of thousands of troops in Iraq indefinitely, with no plan for what they would do there or how he would end the war,” says the Obama campaign official, who delivers a kind of rap sheet: Romney has failed to outline a plan for ending the war in Afghanistan and flip-flopped on setting a timetable for withdrawal. He said it wasn’t worth “moving heaven and earth” to catch bin Laden and criticized Obama for making it clear he would take out Qaida targets in Pakistan. He flip-flopped on removing Qaddafi, first attacking Obama for demanding regime change and then celebrating it. He has proposed to drastically increase military spending without articulating how it would improve security or how to pay for it. Meanwhile, a Democratic campaign official points out that Gingrich has a history of making erratic statements about national security and once told The Times, “I don’t do foreign policy.”
Romney has gone to great lengths to establish himself as the national security candidate among the GOP field and make foreign policy a wedge issue, including giving two big speeches on the subject (for DA’s take, see here and here).
There’s a fight a-brewin’.