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March 27, 2012

Second Terms, Hot Mics, Flexibility, and Inconstancy
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Today 36 Romney Foreign Policy advisers published an open letter in the National Review Online saying that the President's now infamous hot-mic comment to outgoing Russian president Dmitri Medvedev in Seoul, that Obama would have more foreign policy “flexibility” after his re-election, raised questions of “whether a new period of even greater weakness and inconstancy would arise if you are reelected.”

The details of the letter deserves a post all by itself. But I was mesmerized thinking about the idea that two-thirds of the signatories served in the second-term Reagan, Clinton and Bush Administrations – administrations that saw major positive steps in arms control, relations with enemies, and attempts to broker ends to decades-long wars (and that’s just Reagan and Bush) – would sign such a letter. It’s noteworthy that the two of the highest-ranking Romney advisers did not sign it. But for the rest – some of whom I’ve had pleasant and productive working relationships with over the years – I’m sad.  Several serve on the boards of organizations that promote bipartisanship in foreign policy. To paraphrase Senator Hagel's response when Barbara Slavin asked recently if he was still a Republican, if Republicans are disavowing the tendency of American presidents to turn to foreign policy in their second terms, I don’t know what bipartisanship looks like.  

But, rather than wax nostalgic about the (white male) bipartisanship of my youth (with the notable GOP exceptions, when I was starting out, of Paula Dobriansky and Condoleezza Rice), I thought a Harper’s List-style treatment would make my point.

Acknowledged Romney Advisors who held Cabinet-level posts in GOP Administrations: two (Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, CIA Director Michael Hayden)

Signatories who held Cabinet-level posts in GOP Administrations: Zero.

Signatories who held posts that are Cabinet-level in Democratic Administrations, but downgraded in recent GOP Administrations:  two. (Andrew Natsios, USAID, and John Bolton, UN)  

Signatories who served in second-term Bush Administration:  19.

Signatories whose service in the second Bush term was cut short by the U.S. Senate: 1. (Bolton)

Significant foreign policy initiatives/reversals  in second Bush term:  effort to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  Iraq surge and strategy change. Negotiation of Status of Forces agreement that set US on road to Iraq withdrawal. Decision to end prioritized efforts to find Osama bin Laden. End of detainees being sent to Guantanamo and curbing of some torture abuses. Insert your favorite here.

Percent George W. Bush cut deployed nuclear weapons in his second term: 50.

Signatories who served in second-term Clinton Administration:  at least 4. (former career foreign service officers Eric Edelman and Ray Walser; CIA officers Cofer Black, then head of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center, and James Shinn.)

Signatories who served in second-term Reagan Administration: at least four.

Signatories who served in second-term Reagan Administration and whose Wikipedia pages say they are first cousins, once-removed, of Princess Grace:  One. (Lehman)

Signatories who were in the leadership of Lebanese movements that massacred hundreds of Palestinian refugees during the first Reagan Administration: One. (Walid Phares)

Classes of nuclear weapons Ronald Reagan agreed to get rid of entirely during his second term: One.

Major nuclear negotiations with our Soviet foe begun or completed by Reagan in his second term: three. (Reykjavik, 1986; INF Treaty, 1987; START treaty negotiations begun.)

Number of times Reagan met with the leader of the Soviet “evil empire” in his first term: 0.

Number of times Reagan met with the Soviet leader in his second term: five, the most of any US President to that time.

Clearly, Romney’s team is right to worry that a President Romney might follow the lead of their former bosses, not to mention Presidents Clinton, Nixon and Eisenhower, and grow more confident and more concerned with pragmatic solutions to the world’s most pressing national security problems in a second term.

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