Quickie Quiz! What Do the Foreign Policies of Truman, Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton Have in Common?

Damn if I know, but whatever it is, it’s what Mittens wants to go back to.

The Romney campaign cast Obama as an outlier president who failed to continue a bipartisan tradition of a strong military and leadership in the world. Several times on the call, his advisers described Romney as following a tradition that included Presidents Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton while President Obama’s approach, they said, was similar to Jimmy Carter’s. Romney’s approach is “a restoration of a strategy that served us well for over 70 years” and will renew a “bipartisan vision” of foreign policy, Wong said. “[Obama’s] foreign policy is marked by passivity, by delay and by indecision.”

I question whether there was any one “strategy” that “served us well for over 70 years.” You’ve got to be completely ignorant of global history to even think such a thing. And the national security challenges of today are utterly different from what they were in the post World War II era, and these new challenges demand new approaches both diplomatically and militarily. There is simply no one-size-fits-all approach to foreign policy that might have worked in 1949 or 1962 and would still work in 2012. In particular, whatever happened to “9/11 changed everything”?

Again, Romney speaks of the military as if we need to be prepared to land on Normandy beach and advance to Berlin. But that sort of declared war between nations is unlikely to ever be fought again, or at least in our lifetimes.

Conservatives of the 1950s must be rolling over in their graves over praise of Truman who, after all, “lost China” and failed to win the Korean War. And Truman was the guy who said “I like Stalin.” Truman changed his mind later, but still …

Kennedy, Bay of Pigs? That was a bonehead move, although today people mostly remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. Historians are still arguing about how much Kennedy should be blamed for Vietnam.

Reagan’s incoherent Lebanon misadventure cost the lives of 241 servicemen, mostly Marines, in one terrorist attack. So Reagan withdrew and consoled himself by invading Grenada. If Reagan had been a Democrat, the Right would have put him in the Weenie Museum next to Carter. And Iran Contra? Really, Jimmy Carter never did anything that weird.

And conservatives had nothing good to say about Clinton’s foreign policies while he was in office. I’d agree that foreign policy wasn’t President Clinton’s strong suit, although he got better as he went along. And, of course, the Bush II administration (unfairly) blamed Clinton for 9/11. How soon they forget.

Even a fellow from the American Enterprise Institute understands that Romney has to do more than pretend to be Ronald Reagan: “Mr. Romney needs to persuade people that he’s not simply a George W. Bush retread, eager to go to war in Syria and Iran and answer all the mail with an F-16.”

Mitt will be speaking today at the Virginia Military Institute:

In a speech on Monday at the Virginia Military Institute, Mr. Romney will declare that “hope is not a strategy” for dealing with the rise of Islamist governments in the Middle East or an Iran racing toward the capability to build a nuclear weapon, according to excerpts released by his campaign.

The essence of Mr. Romney’s argument is that he would take the United States back to an earlier era, one that would result, as his young foreign policy director, Alex Wong, told reporters on Sunday, in “the restoration of a strategy that served us well for 70 years.”

But beyond his critique of Mr. Obama as failing to project American strength abroad, Mr. Romney has yet to fill in many of the details of how he would conduct policy toward the rest of the world, or to resolve deep ideological rifts within the Republican Party and his own foreign policy team. It is a disparate and politely fractious team of advisers that includes warring tribes of neoconservatives, traditional strong-defense conservatives and a band of self-described “realists” who believe there are limits to the degree the United States can impose its will.

In other words, Romney is a bit fuzzy about the details

Each group is vying to shape Mr. Romney’s views, usually through policy papers that many of the advisers wonder if he is reading. Indeed, in a campaign that has been so intensely focused on economic issues, some of these advisers, in interviews over the past two weeks in which most insisted on anonymity, say they have engaged with him so little on issues of national security that they are uncertain what camp he would fall into, and are uncertain themselves about how he would govern.

Truly, as in all things that don’t involve leverage and tax shelters, Mitt cannot make up his mind.

Indeed, while the theme Mr. Romney plans to hit the hardest in his speech at V.M.I. — that the Obama era has been one marked by “weakness” and the abandonment of allies — has political appeal, the specific descriptions of what Mr. Romney would do, on issues like drawing red lines for Iran’s nuclear program and threatening to cut off military aid to difficult allies like Pakistan or Egypt if they veer away from American interests, sound at times quite close to Mr. Obama’s approach.

And the speech appears to glide past positions Mr. Romney himself took more than a year ago, when he voiced opposition to expanding the intervention in Libya to hunt down Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi with what he termed insufficient resources. He called it “mission creep and mission muddle,” though within months Mr. Qaddafi was gone. And last spring, Mr. Romney was caught on tape telling donors he believed there was “just no way” a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could work.

You’ll like this part:

Liz Cheney, who served in the State Department during the Bush administration and is the daughter of Mr. Bush’s vice president, has begun to join a weekly conference call that sporadically includes Dan Senor, who served as spokesman for the American occupation government in Iraq. Since the Republican National Convention, Mr. Senor has been assigned to the staff of Mr. Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, who in recent weeks has made Mr. Obama’s foreign policy a particular target.

Please, people, this man must not become President. Must. not. become. President. A Romney administration would be a global catastrophe.

37 thoughts on “Quickie Quiz! What Do the Foreign Policies of Truman, Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton Have in Common?

  1. What did they have in common?
    Those foreign policies were from American white men, and not some interloping Kenyan Socialist darkie.

    In a sane world, Dan Senor wouldn’t be allowed to even own the boardgame, Risk, and Lizard Cheney would be planning her days around the monthly visit to her father at whatever prison the Judges at the Hague deemed was sufficiently nasty for a War Criminal like him.

    The rest of the world must look at us and ask “WTF is wrong with you people?”
    The answer, of course, is freedom of speech as FOX “News” and Radio Rushwanda practice it.

  2. People forget Iran/Contra started in the time period prior to Regan getting elected, During the Carter era. It was started by the R party, the people who believe our freedom is formost to overthrow both a sitting government here and abroad. And it worked. Both the foreign government that was created by those people and the the usual american revolution that occurs every two years went to those vote stealers..
    Our CIA formed the groups that took over Iran from a american leaning liberal government there, and installed a conservitive government that repressed the people, and created the problems that we have today. another paperoid is that iran contra is the group that went to Iran to keep the government from talking to resolve a hostage situation there. Till after an election, here, to prove that their idea was better. Supposedly big time money changed hands then. Thats why weapons were sold. To cover the transfer back then.
    It makes me wonder, was the ambasadors death a simular attempt? After all history and movie plots repeat..

    • People forget Iran/Contra started in the time period prior to Regan getting elected, During the Carter era.

      I don’t believe that’s true. All the documentation I’ve seen says the arms sales began in 1982.

  3. “Muddle and confuse” is the common denominator.. with a strong emphasis on the Reagan myth.

    Paulie is already out there doing his John the Baptist routine..” Behold, there comes one greater than I who can take away the suffering of the american public” Cast your cares upon him!

  4. Maybe under Carter, LITERALLY – but Reagan was the one cutting any deals. The hostages were released just minutes after he was sworn into office in January of ’81. I always found that hightly suspicious.

    • c u n d gulag — the Iran-Contra thing wasn’t directly related to the hostages released in 1981. The hostages the Reaganites traded arms for were kidnapped at various times during Reagan’s first term and were being held in Lebanon by Hezbollah. It was believed the government of Iran was behind the kidnappings, although I don’t know if anyone knows that for certain even to this day. The arms-for-hostages deal was proposed in July 1985, which was later than I had remembered. Here’s a timeline.

      Another critical date, though, is 1982, when Congress passed the first Boland Amendment that limited what assistance could be given to the contra militants trying to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The Reagan administration continued to secretly arm the contras, in violation of law. Then after 1985 Reagan officials began to use money from arms sales to Iran to fund the covert support for the contras. There’s a pretty good article about it all here.

      While it’s entirely possible Reagan’s people had worked out some kind of deal to get the Tehran hostages released in 1981, that was separate from the later Iran Contra scandal. I don’t see any way it can be said that Iran-Contra began before the Reagan Administration.

  5. I’m stunned trying to think which strategy they think they’re talking about. 70 years ago was 1942, when our foreign policy consisted of massive government control of domestic industry to maintain a massive war effort on two continents, ending in the use of nuclear weapons. Maybe they mean the rabid anti-communism that led to the Korean and Vietnamese Wars? Or the ‘strategy’ of overthrowing elected governments across the globe and installing puppet regimes, which worked out so well for us in Iran and across Latin America? Provoking a nuclear standoff with the Soviets by placing missiles in Turkey, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis? Illegally funding armed Nicaraguans and dealing with Iran? Invading a pointless island in the Caribbean? What?

    I heard a soundbite of Mitt quoting Lech Walesa asking where American leadership was, so I can only assume this 70 year “strategy” is “leadership”, whatever that means. Which of course assumes a) that we aren’t doing and b) that other countries full of grown-up fully functional adults WANT to be led by us.

    Oops, I’m sorry. For a moment I slipped into thinking that Mitt Romney was saying things that were supposed to be real. How silly. Never mind.

  6. Please, people, this man must not become President. Must. not.

    One of the mistakes I made when Bush was elected in 2000 was to think that the president was more or less just a figurehead who couldn’t do any real damage..I thought a balance in reason and moderation would always occur at a Congressional level. I didn’t appreciate the idea that if you put an empty vessel in a place of power it can easily be filled by influences that you didn’t anticipate.

    The fact that Romney has shown a propensity toward aggressive foreign policy without an understanding of foreign policy itself tells me that Romney can easily be lead astray by forces contrary to the desires of the american public. Bibi? I don’t mind Americans dying for Israel if their patriotism demands it..I just don’t want to foot the bill..I’ve paid enough to unbridled capitalism..My real enemy.

  7. Does Mitt really expect us all to forget about the catastrophic foreign policy of the most recent Republican president? He can talk about Truman, Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton all he wants, but those aren’t the presidents whose foreign policy people he’s surrounded himself with. (Iraq? What’s that?)

    • He can talk about Truman, Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton all he wants

      And notice that three of the four were Democrats. He’s leaving out Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Bush I and Bush II — a mixed bag, so say the least. Reagan is the only Republican president since World War II the Right seems to want to remember.

  8. I was trying to be a wise @$$ – I know the timeline pretty well.

    And here’s the crack-cocaine connection to what should have been called Iran-Contra-Crack Cocaine To the Inner Cities:


    I also find this reporters death in 2004 suspicious – two gunshot wounds in the head, and it’s called a suicide.

    Yeah, that Reagan was a great man, alright…

  9. Mitt as president scares the hell out of me. And, I find it difficult to understand how a man who during the Nam War marched in favor of it and then managed to secure (maybe) four deferments to avoid fighting in it, can support, advocate and start wars when he’s not willing to put his own body on the line.

    Aside from that, Obama’s foreign policy approach reminds me of the North Wind vs the Sun fable. A traveler on the road had a great coat on which the Wind said it could ‘blow’ off of him. So it blew and blew and blew and the more it blew the tighter the traveler wrapped his coat about him. The Sun said let me try. It shown and shown and shown until the traveler took off his coat.

  10. The thing about Elliot Abrams, is you can always find where he is – just follow the trail of dead nuns he leaves behind him.

    That despicable creep makes Rummy look noble in comparison.
    He and Dick Cheney are the lowest forms of human life on this planet.

  11. joanr16 ..Thanks for picking up on that. I dislike appearing cryptic,but sometimes just a word or a name can sum up the nature of a situation.
    ¡Viva! Comandante Pastora.

    I once wrote a letter to Reagan praising him for Iran- Contra, and encouraging him to disregard the press..”Hounds nipping at your heels”. I was so ate up with stupidity* and patriotism I shutter to look back on my life..My only consolation is that I didn’t wear a bell bottom jump suit/leisure suit in those days…You know, like the lime colored one like Gulag wore.

    * at least the patriotism has subsided.

  12. “Fool me once – shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

    President Obama now knows Romney will lie his ass off in a debate. The scope of those potential falsehoods narrows in the arena of international politics. Obama should make a debate on international policy look like a street mugging.

    The next presidential debate is on foreign and domestic issues in a Town Hall Forum. The last presidential debate is on foreign policy in the format of the first debate. No mater how you dice it, the majority of the upcoming debates are in the arena Obama excels. In the portion of the next Town Hall debate where questions are asked on domestic stuff, Obama may be able to rebut some of the outright lies of the first debate. (Forcefully, just barely shy of using the “L” word.)

    Romney will try to paint US policy as unpopular overseas.There are international surveys – for example http://trends.gmfus.org/

    Obama remains much more popular in Europe than Bush was. The serious drops in popularity are in the Mid-east, which plays hell with the theory Obama is a Muslim. In the area of mid-east popularity, would Romney be more popular?

    OBL is dead. Mitt ridiculed the importance of going after OBL, I think. The quote,
    ‘It’s not worth moving heaven and Earth and spending billions of dollars just to catch one person.’ Obama needs to ask, ‘Was what we did worth it?’

    The military budget has (I believe) gone UP every year in Obama’s term. Yep, it has – http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/spending_chart_1997_2017USb_13s1li111lcn_30t_30_Defense_Spending_Chart

    Plans for the future, from CNN..

    “The U.S. military saw its budget peak at about $700 billion when it was fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Obama administration has asked Congress for $613 billion for 2013 — a “base budget” of $525 billion and nearly $89 billion for the war in Afghanistan, which Obama is attempting to wind down.”

    The mandatory cuts that will take place are the result of a law Obama signed. True! The deal was one Congress struck at the last minute over the objections of the Tea Party. This was the fight that caused the downgrade of the US credit rating but the last-second deal prevented a shutdown of the federal government. The question for Romney is, ‘Would he have shut down the government or signed?” Those were the choices.

    Two points. Obama had to sign the deal or shut down the federal government. Second point. The deal was supposed to force Congress to work together and avoid the ‘fiscal cliff’ we are approaching. The failure of Congress to act is not Obama’s doing in any way, shape or form. The threat of defense cuts was supposed to be incentive to drive republicans to negotiate. The threat of domestic cuts was supposed to drive democrats to negotiate. The negotiations are supposed to happen in Congress – the president can not require or instill sanity among the Tea Party.

    In the UN, the US (under Obama) has ALWAYS backed Israel in the Security. Council. Obama sent Israel ‘bunker busters’ – a move that was supposed to increase trust and cooperation. Israel wants to use them, with a guarantee that the US will bail them out with American blood and treasure if there is a backlash. The answer is simple. Washington is not a satellite country under the control of Israel. Should Israel, as a sovereign nation decide to pick a fight, they had better be prepared to wage that fight. If they want the US to underwrite any military adventure, they will have to convince the US of the need. And most of the US is NOT convinced of the need.

    So the question is – “To what foreign leader(s) or country would a President Romney cede the power of Commander-In-Chief? “

  13. Gulag and Swami, as contemporaries we probably shudder at a lot of the same things. And Swami, your personal story of political conversion… I always get teary just thinking about it! 🙂

    I have this memory of reading a teeny-tiny little page 6 newspaper story that eventually would open the Iran-Contra floodgates, and thinking, “Crap, I bet the truth about this will never see the light of day!” I was wrong, although as usual a lot of horrible people escaped justice.

  14. Swami,
    I need to clear the record here – I NEVER WORE THAT LIME GREEN ATROCITY!!!

    Now, my mother may have it squirrelled away in some closet, since I told her the only way anyone would ever see me in it,would mean that I was dead.
    I didn’t even try it on.
    And the funny thing is, my mother usually has really great taste in clothing.

  15. Come on Gulag..fess up.. I used to sport a Fu Manchu mustache just like the Koran burning Pastor Terry. There’s no shame in it.

    • Full confession — about 1969 or 1970 I once was compelled to wear a canary yellow bridesmaid’s gown with a huge matching bow on top of my head. However, I made it look good.

  16. What did they have in common?

    Those foreign policies were from American white men, and not some interloping Kenyan Socialist darkie.

    Exactly. You’re getting caught up in all the details, y’know, history and facts and stuff like that. Romney’s statement has nothing to do with history, and everything to do with painting Obama as this frightening Outsider, who is consigning American to Oblivion. Get us a Real White Man in the Oval Office and pronto, is what it’s about.

  17. Many people, myself included, think America reached it’s height with either WWII, the Civil Rights Acts, and/or the Moon landing.

    The liesure suit was symbolic of this countries decline.
    It was a product, made competely out of synthetics, in neon colors, that no one with any taste wanted – only older white men, who wanted to look ‘young and hip,’ and their wives and/or mothers.

    When they came out, I WAS young AND hip – I was in great shape, had long curly reddish-blonde hair – occasionally finished off with a tasteful ponytail, an earring, protested nukes, was a College student who was involved in Theatre, loved Punk Rock and HATED Disco, and taught in a Maximum Security Prison.
    My mother didn’t realize that at that point in my life, I had to beat women off with a stick – metaphorically speaking, of course. And I had no time for icky liesure suits.

    Liesure suits made Nehru jackets look hip and with-it, and a smart investment!

  18. renew a “bipartisan vision” of foreign policy

    Elvis has left the building! Romney is selling wolf tickets.

  19. I know the answer to the lead question..If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance..then baffle them with bullshit.

  20. “[Obama’s] foreign policy is marked by passivity, by delay and by indecision.”

    I cannot for the life of me see what is indecisive, passive, or delayed in the operation to kill bin Laden. A successful mission, which made all the rightwing warmongers look like wimps.

  21. Felicity … the key to understanding Mitt Romney is the same as understanding the difference between selfishness and selflessness.

  22. I see some of you people dispute iran-contra based on dates, forget the dates, look at who was involved, look where they had their policy laid out off, and look at the lack of follow-up. Then compare that to what happened and who instigated the program. The same elders of statemanship are in play today. But now they control the news outlets. I wounder what will be reported tommorow. What fluff, and where is the play comming from?

  23. I see the media is cranking up the game for the white knuckled crowd.. ” and here comes sea biscuit Ryan by a nose as they head into the final stretch”..

    Paulie is beginning to look like a scholarly statesman rather than the half fast budget plagiarizing fraud that he is. I heard that Peggy Noonan said that ole blue eyes can slip his penny loafers under her bed anytime.

  24. @ Jim:It was started by the “r” party, who believe our freedom is foremost to overthrow a sitting government here and abroad..Today I was yet again stuck in the car with right wing talk radio between stops(What a long day)..it was either Gearldo or huckabee’s show, all I heard was a clip of mittwitts little talk today and they were highlighting the part of the speech where he spoke about Syria, where he said America needed to make sure rebels there had enough firepower to fight the government tanks, copters, ect..hearing that stupidity today made me realize this is what mittiwitt plans for his first mini war – if he does ok with that maybe they will let him have a bigger one. Anyway it was just an item on his laundry list of what he see’s the tax payers picking up the bill for in cash and the blood of our kids before it is over no doubt..Your comment was right in step with his reasoning.
    The idea of overthrowing governments just cause we don’t like them is insane..as Maha so rightly said , this man must not get elected- He is a very very dangerous man to the fragile string of peace we are walking upon.

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