Let’s hope that Mitt Romney tonight has the courage of Bill Kristol’s convictions, because Kristol sure doesn’t. The Weekly Standard editor, as I noted here last week, rightly argued that this third and final debate will be decisive.
“If Romney can’t win the foreign policy debate, he probably won’t win,” Kristol wrote. “If he can — if he rises to the challenge — he’ll deserve victory, and he’ll probably achieve it.”
Well, that was then then, this is now:
There’s no need for Mitt Romney to flyspeck Barack Obama’s foreign policy record… Romney doesn’t have to mount a detailed critique of various Obama foreign policies. He has to stipulate that all is not turning out as Obama claimed it would, that all is not well in the state of the world…
Romney has to…speak less as a challenger to the current president, less as a critic and a prosecutor of the current president, and more as . . . the next president. Romney should appear by Election Day to be more presidential than the incumbent.
Mitt Romney is a combative and competitive man. But his worst moments in the debates were when he became too pettily combative.
His best [moments] were when he briefly stipulated the failures of President Obama’s policies, then pivoted to lay out his own agenda for the nation for the next four years and beyond.
Kristol is completely and utterly wrong here. He’s proposing that Romney sit on a perceived lead and coast to victory. That’s the strategy too many GOP presidential candidates, starting with Thomas E. Dewey, have adopted in the past and the result has usually been the same: They’ve lost!
Make no mistake: Romney’s problem is not that he’s too combative or competitive; just the opposite: His most politically beneficial and rewarding moments have been precisely when he has been combative and competitive. Just ask Newt Gingrich, whom Romney vanquished in the primaries.
Or, better yet, recall the first debate, which Romney dominated and which, as a result, catapulted him to the lead in this election. And pace Kristol, Romney’s worst moments in the se debates were not when he became too “pettily combative.”
Romney’s worst moments in these debates have been when he’s lacked the courage of his convictions, failed to attack Obama, appeared weak and irresolute, and fumbled key policy questions. His mishandling of the Benghazi fiasco in the second debate is a case in point.
Then there’s the isolationist cons, such as my friend, Jim Antle. Jim is worried that by being too much of a hawk, Romney will “bomb the election” (pun very much intended). Well, credit Jim for having a sharp wit and a fine sense of humor, but he’s also wrong.
Sure, the American people have little appetite for any new wars; but they also recognize and support the need for American international leadership. And, at a minimum, that means supporting our friends and allies, and assiduously cultivating new friends and allies.
Yet, Obama has done nothing but alienate our friends and allies, starting with the Israelis and including the Brits, the Poles, the Czechs, the Iranian “Green” dissidents, and everyone across the entire Egyptian political spectrum.
It takes a rare U.S. president who can anger and offend so many allies with so little effort. Romney absolutely should go after Obama for his myriad and manifest failures of leadership.
In short, Romney has no need to apologize for his conservative foreign policy views, nor need he trim his sails. And if he wishes to win this election, he has to stay on offense and take the fight to Obama.
Pretending that he’s already won this election when he hasn’t (the race is a statistical tie, which could go either way) will only cause Romney to lose. Just ask old Tom Dewey.