Political Animal


March 06, 2012 10:19 AM In Ronnie’s Shoes

By Ed Kilgore

So as he tries to nail down the GOP presidential nomination with victories in ten states today, Team Romney pulled the trigger on a WaPo op-ed on the foreign policy issue most discussed on the campaign trail, Iran.

Whatever you think of it as an analysis of the Middle East or of nonproliferation policy or of U.S. foreign policy generally (comparing it to Paul Pillar’s new Washington Monthly piece on U.S.-Iran relations is kind of like comparing a comic book to a college text), it certainly hits the right political notes for the audience he cares about most, conservative “base” voters.

It opens with the perfect analogy from Romney’s point of view: Jimmy Carter, cowering in the White House, wringing his hands in impotent frustration at the taking of U.S. hostages by Islamic fanatics. This crisis, says Mitt’s ghostwriter, was instantly dispelled by the election of Ronald Reagan, whose strength and courage terrified the mullahs into ending their cruel game.

And so, the op-ed says, we are in a “strikingly similar situation” today: same Islamic fanatics, same liberal wusses in the White House, same need for a real man to resolve the crisis with a steely glance, some nuclear brinkmanship, and maybe a few trillion dollars in otherwise useless new defense spending.

The need for Romney to identify with Reagan is so strong that the op-ed not only insists today’s Iranian regime is “the same Islamic fanatics” that Ronnie stared down, but identifies Iran with the Cold War Era Soviet Union as well. Thus, just as Reagan won the Cold War by pushing for his Strategic Defense Initiative, Mitt will face down the equally threatening Iranian and North Korean regimes with a new ballistic missile system, that much-derided sugar plum fairy of defense contractors.

Most of all, President Romney will be tough like Reagan, getting right into grills of those bearded Islamic Fanatics by an early trip to Jersusalem, support for an Iranian insurgency, and most of all, demands for a build-down of the Iranian nuclear program backed by a credible threat of war.

If this all sounds a bit like foreign policy as it would be conducted by a seventeen-year-old boy with an addiction to energy drinks, that is almost certainly intentional. If the chronic liberal vice in foreign policy is excessive faith in international organizations, the chronic conservative vice is the belief that America must perpetually prove its willingness to kill instantly and remoselessly. Romney’s handlers want to make sure conservatives are reassured he fully shares that vice.

Let us profoundly hope that this and earlier expressions of Romney’s foreign policy views are as insincere as what he has said about his own past domestic policy positions. Yes, it’s tiresome and a bit alarming to have to wish that a major-party presidential candidate is routinely lying through his teeth to the very people he calls his supporters. But in the case of foreign policy, there are contingencies much worse than presidential mendacity. There are ruinous and unnecessary wars of the kind that Romney very much wants primary voters to think he is eager to wage the minute he’s in Ronnie’s shoes.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • stormskies on March 06, 2012 10:42 AM:

    This crap was not written by buffoon Romney but by his neo-con foreign policy advisers who are the very same people that Bush has. The one's that CNN strategically placed in one of the 'debates' where they then were 'randomly' called upon to ask questions of Romney by the corporate robot called Wolf Blizter.

    And, of course, this crap is nothing more than neo-con fantasies and delusions that Romney has bent over and pulled his pants down too in order to do anything to become the Repiglican/ neo-con nominee for president.

  • SteveT on March 06, 2012 10:47 AM:

    the chronic conservative vice is the belief that America must perpetually prove its willingness to kill instantly and remorselessly . . .

    Not always.

    Conservatives almost universally opposed American involvement in stopping Serbian genocide in Bosnia.

    But then, the Serbs, umm . . . pale in comparison to the Iranians.

  • MattF on March 06, 2012 10:48 AM:

    You see, there's a problem with the 'war is good for you' policy. And it's not only the 'lots of people may die' problem, it's the 'the policy doesn't work' problem. I only wish that a few of our policy makers would bear that in mind.

  • Memekiller on March 06, 2012 10:52 AM:

    Romney's best hope of rallying the base will not be anything he does or stands for, but by an all-out smear-a-thon on Obama to unite against a common enemy. Incidentally, the same way he's squeaked out every primary win so far.

    Eurocession and Iran could be what changes the narrative and gives the media the chance to love Mitt, too and get their "how did things start going so badly?" stories about Obama, who will be operating exactly as he has before.

    I can see a scenario where Romney gets traction and even leads this campaign. How lasting the damage of the primary turns out to be depends very much on how prepared the Obama team is for the Romney treatment that's destroyed much less scrupulous men than him.

  • Danp on March 06, 2012 10:54 AM:

    Since Romney is the curtain, who is the wizard of oz? And how long will Republican voters continue to click their shit-kickers and wish they were in Kansas?

  • Josef K on March 06, 2012 10:55 AM:

    If this all sounds a bit like foreign policy as it would be conducted by a seventeen-year-old boy with an addiction to energy drinks, that is almost certainly intentional.

    What do you mean if???

    I'm starting to wonder if Romney isn't one of those malicious, self-directed vehtriloquist dummies that cropped up on the original "Twilight Zone" episodes.

  • Stevio on March 06, 2012 11:01 AM:

    Shock and Awe them into the neolithic epoch slaughtering hundreds of thousands of them with the "opening act". Much better targets than Afghanistan eh? Then invade them by placing a Christian standing army in their midst and then torture their dead-enders while blaming it all on a few enlisted rouge grunts. Then build a huegundis embassy fort and sell their oil to private international corporations without bid. It may take some time but Rome wasn't built in a day...

    I wonder if Ambassador Crocker is available to set up the fort...

  • Peter C on March 06, 2012 11:02 AM:


    Please drop the 'Romney is probably being insincere' meme. We can demonstrate with ease that Romney is a core-less weather-vane; that's a conrete character flaw that will rightfully damage him as a candidate and we're not lacking in evidence; there is no need to speculate about possible sane apotasy from the rabid-right position except perhaps in whispers to his tepid supporters from the zealot factions in his own party.

    However, we must take his policy pronouncements at their word. We do ourselves a disservice to temper his idiocy with the idea that 'he really doesn't mean it'. Firstly, he may well mean it. Secondly, he should carry all the stains of his idiocy and not have any help from us to white-wash his public policy positions.

  • Hedda Peraz on March 06, 2012 11:08 AM:

    All of this bloviation on the Right can be stilled with a simple question:
    "Sir, how do you plan to PAY FOR IT?"

  • gregor on March 06, 2012 11:13 AM:

    And I thought that Ronnie won by making a deal with the Mullahs to not release the hostage till after the elections. And he appeased the Mullahs further by engaging his administrations in the shenanigans falling under the broad category of Iran-Contra affair. Something about Ollie North smuggling something in a Bible.

    If Romney's analogy is accurate, look in 2015 for the disclosure of the details of Romney's deal with Israelis to bomb Iran before November, 2012. That is if he wins.

  • memekiller on March 06, 2012 11:20 AM:

    How can Romney stand up to Iran if he cowers at chastising Rush Limbaugh.

  • zeitgeist on March 06, 2012 11:28 AM:

    However, we must take his policy pronouncements at their word. We do ourselves a disservice to temper his idiocy with the idea that 'he really doesn't mean it'. Firstly, he may well mean it.

    Peter C's point is important: the real issue with Romney is not that he may be more moderate on some things than he lets on, it is that at this point neither we, nor the wingnuts, really have the first idea or any way of knowing. Maybe the chamber is empty. Maybe its loaded with the most insane right-wing actions. But voting for Romney is a lot like playing Russian Roulette with an unknown number of bullets in the gun.

  • Monty on March 06, 2012 11:46 AM:

    Romney's getting a lot of support from the neocon contingent, so whether or not he himself is sincere is largely irrelevant: once elected, he will defer to those who definitely do mean it.

  • T-Rex on March 06, 2012 11:48 AM:

    I can't believe it took until the ninth post for someone to point out that Reagan's courageous, manly saber rattling was a cover for selling arms to Iran.Lest we forget, his administration also trained and armed Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

  • cmdicely on March 06, 2012 11:51 AM:

    If the chronic liberal vice in foreign policy is excessive faith in international organizations, the chronic conservative vice is the belief that America must perpetually prove its willingness to kill instantly and remoselessly.

    Why would you link these things. The former is absolutely mythological, so by linking it to the latter, you suggest that the latter is equally mythological (or, I suppose, as the latter is absolutely true, linking it to the former suggests the former is true as well.)

    Why is it that the commentariat of the notional left acts as if it is necessary to validate a false right-wing criticism of the left with every criticism of the right?

  • jcricket on March 06, 2012 11:52 AM:

    Romney is an empty shell of a man. No doubt he is hoping that the RWingers will come to think of that as an asset that can be exploited for their own gain. A win-win down the rabbit hole that is conservative politics.

  • rbe1 on March 06, 2012 12:02 PM:

    So I assume Romney is prepared to sell weapons to the Iranians to get them to do what he wants, as Reagan did.

  • T2 on March 06, 2012 12:08 PM:

    as Hedda says, all this gun rattlin' could stop with a "how do we pay for it" question....followed with the Dems saying "Bush TAX CUTS expire" and then we'll have a DRAFT.

  • sforange on March 06, 2012 12:12 PM:

    I'm more concerned with the implication that somehow Romney is lying to secure the nomination and would never do these things. This is the exact thinking that could get him elected. And one of the reasons George W. Bush was elected. I for one have learned that lesson.

  • Jeff Kaufman on March 06, 2012 12:13 PM:

    It's probably too much to hope that Mitt Romney and his advisers have an awareness of history (not just myth), but when they express admiration for Pres. Reagan's approach to Iran, do they recall the Iran–Contra Affair? Brief reminder: senior Reagan administration officials secretly helped sell of arms to Iran, which was under a U.S. arms embargo. Is that the kind of behavior Mr. Romney respects and would repeat?

  • schtick on March 06, 2012 12:14 PM:

    Hollywood St. Ronnie, got the credit for the release of the hostages when all the work was done by Carter. He also took the credit for the Berlin Wall, which took years with many people working for it.
    He correctly said he didn't know about the Iran-Contra fiasco because he slept through most of his two terms letting others run everything.
    I didn't vote for Reagan so much as I voted against Carter. Not because of the hostage deal, but because he put politics before the Olympics. I knew within six months I had made a big mistake. I haven't voted for a republican for President since.

  • Memekiller on March 06, 2012 12:18 PM:

    They wouldn't go into Torra Bora. Their last Presidential Candidate said Limbaugh was reckless to say he'd cross the border into Pakistan to take out Bin Laden.

    If you want to scare the GOP into leaving you alone, the best thing you can do is attack us.

  • barkleyg on March 06, 2012 12:36 PM:

    If MITTENS is SAINT RONNIE, who is Oliver North?

  • c00p on March 06, 2012 12:53 PM:

    Thanks, schtick, for pointing out that Carter wasn't sitting haplessly in the White House during the hostage crisis.

    Also let's note how odd it *ought to be* that such "deeply devoted and faithful Christians" immediately respond to every international difficulty with "Let's go kill some people."

  • sparrow on March 06, 2012 1:57 PM:

    Doesn't seem he gives much thought to Russia and China. Are we supposed to think that they will just passively stand by on the sidelines without actively working in their own interests? I don't think so.This whole situation is a whole lot more complicated than Romney makes it out to be.

  • bcinaz on March 06, 2012 2:11 PM:

    The same Reagan who had a covert operation running in the basement of his house selling arms to Iran in violation of US Law? Either completely clueless or not briefed by any intelligence service that arms were getting to the Ayatollah from the US. (Which sounds like treason to me, selling arms to our enemies)

    Do the names Oliver North and Fawn Hall ring a bell with anyone?

  • G.Kerby on March 06, 2012 2:41 PM:

    :Which sounds like treason to me, selling arms to our enemies"

    It wasn't the first time a presidential candidate committed treason to win an election. See Dick, Tricky:

  • 2Manchu on March 06, 2012 3:11 PM:

    Do me a favor, Mr. Romney. Google "Operation Eagle Claw". Yes, Carter did indeed order a military response to the Iranian hostage crisis, which tragically failed (I still remember seeing the news of the mission back then).

    From what I have read, additional military options were being planned, but the Iranians made it more difficult by separating and moving the hostages around Tehran, thus making the mission objective (rescuing all of the hostages) near impossible.

    I have no clue how Reagan could have done any better. A repeat of "Linebacker II"? While it would have made the chickenhawks all wet, it's chance of getting the hostages freed would have been extremely low. There's a good reason why you don't find any description of hostage rescue operations that start with "First, bomb the shit out them."

    Also, if using overwhelming military force for hostage rescue missions did work, why didn't Reagan use it to free Terry Anderson and the other Americans being held in Lebanon?

    And almost all of those high-speed weapon systems that became operational during the Reagan years were being developed and tested during the Carter years.

    In fact, the Carter administration had increased defense spending (albeit, not to the blank check level of Reagan), and would continued to during a second term if they had won in 1980.

  • biggerbox on March 06, 2012 5:02 PM:

    Should we expect that Romney will also be secretly selling arms to Iran, and then using the proceeds to start illegally funding right-wing death squads in Latin America in express violation of an act of Congress?

    I'd just like to know how far he wants to take the whole Ronnie and Iran thing...

  • Sammy on March 08, 2012 2:24 AM:

    Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben, and Craig Romney (age range 31 to 41) are of military age.

    Why aren't they serving their country in the military, especially since Papa Mitt is wae hungry