WASHINGTON – Unlike every other speaker who proceeded him at the Republican
National Convention Thursday night – with the surprising exception of Clint
Eastwood – Mitt Romney discussed foreign policy in his address.
his speech accepting the Republican Party’s presidential nomination was devoted
to his family background, his vision of what America stands for and domestic
issues such as jobs and taxes.
But in a brief section toward the end, he
spelled out a few policy specifics.
Romney broke no new ground – in fact,
several of the lines were direct repetitions of sentences he has already uttered
on the campaign trail. But that wasn’t really the point, which was namely to try
to strike a contrast with US President Barack Obama in order to delineate areas
of weakness in his competitor and suggest that he himself would do
In doing so, he spoke to the foreign policy areas of the greatest
consensus in the United States. Those areas should be reassuring to those
Israelis who worry about how the American commander-in-chief will fit the Jewish
state into his larger vision of the world and where the threats they face will
be placed on the priority list of the globe’s most powerful country.
the top of Romney’s list Thursday night was Iran.
After a glancing
reference to how Americans felt “relieved” because of Obama’s order to take out
Osama bin Laden, he continued, “Every American is less secure today because he
has failed to slow Iran’s nuclear threat.”
He specifically criticized
Obama’s engagement policy.
“In his first TV interview as president, he
said we should talk to Iran. We’re still talking, and Iran’s centrifuges
are still spinning,” Romney continued.
Next came Israel
“President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus,”
the Republican candidate charged.
He quickly mentioned Cuba and then took
a swipe at Obama on the missile defense issue – which is directly related to US
efforts to provide a security umbrella from the threat of Iranian rockets – by
recalling the president’s caught-on-mic comment to then-Russian president Dmitri
Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” after the election.
abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from our missile defense
commitments, but is eager to give Russia’s President Putin the flexibility he
desires, after the election,” Romney said of Obama.
While these positions
might be warmly received by many Israelis, it’s less clear what the reaction
from the rest of the international community will be, particularly since these
specific points are being made under the broader banner of reinforced American
That idea – that the US is different, that it has a
special mission and destiny – is easily heard as equivalent to American
superiority to other countries.
The term was a dominant theme at the RNC
convention. An entire section of the 2012 Republican platform is titled for
American exceptionalism, and almost every speech at the convention mentioned
America’s special opportunities, values and prowess.
Romney himself spoke
early on in his speech about watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon, with his
wife, Ann, and recalling, “Like all Americans, we went to bed that night knowing
we lived in the greatest country in the history of the world.”
world needs someone to do the really big stuff, you need an American,” he
Beyond the overarching view of American exceptionalism, which
was hammered on again and again, international perspective didn’t figure much
into the convention, just as it is getting little attention in the
It was only movie star Clint Eastwood – who was allowed to go
on stage minutes before Romney with an unscripted, unvetted performance – who
mentioned the more controversial issues of Guantanamo Bay and the war in
The convention planners have been taking a lot of heat for
letting Eastwood go on as he did, but these issues are ones that are going to
have to be reckoned with. There will be many more unscripted moments between now
and Election Day.