By James Zogby - During the last few weeks of this presidential campaign, I have become terribly confused listening to Mitt Romney address America's foreign policy challenges.
I have followed Romney's every word for almost two years now, and I simply don't recognize the guy who spoke at Virginia Military Institute on October 8th or the one who showed up to debate President Obama last week.
Since the beginning of this long campaign, Romney has given ten foreign policy addresses. At every turn he has positioned himself as a severe critic of the Administration, condemning the president for "diminishing American leadership" and "betraying the trust that allies place in the United States." Taking his cue from his bevy of neo-conservative advisers, Romney has appeared to embrace their tenets and even conflated their projection of American exceptionalism with elements of his own Mormon creed. His message has been that "America must lead through strength" and use its "great power to shape history."
And so it has been baffling to witness the sudden transformation that now sees Romney largely agreeing with President Obama's approach to several areas and while feigning sharp criticism in others, still fundamentally agreeing with current policy. When he lamented the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations (after just recently dismissing the entire effort as hopeless) and then offered such benign pronouncements as "we can't kill our way out of this mess" or "we don't want another Iraq, we don't want another Afghanistan," I became thoroughly unsettled.
Listening to this "kinder and gentler" Romney, two questions came to mind. Was all this a tactical ploy to sway undecided voters? Or was this the candidate's declaration of independence from his neo-conservative advisers (three-quarters of whom are George W. Bush alumni)? Since Romney has also selectively veered away from many of his other "severely Conservative" views during the last few weeks of the campaign, I tend to believe that it is more of a crass tactical move than an assertion of independence.
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