My colleague Marc Thiessen has railed at the GOP debate series that has shed little light on the candidates’ views on national security. Kudos to Mitt Romney for taking the issue head on with a speech on same tomorrow at the Citadel. Here are some questions he might think about answering:
1. What do you really think about Afghanistan? In June, you said: “It’s time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can—as soon as our generals think it’s okay. One lesson we’ve learned in Afghanistan is that Americans cannot fight another nation’s war of independence.” You have since suggested President Obama should slow the troop drawdown. Fight or run? It’s time to clarify.
2. Last week, you said “I always want us to have a military so strong no one even thinks about trying to test it.” In May, you said, “I’m not going to cut the defense budget.” But in August, you said: “Let me tell you, as a conservative businessman who has spent most of his life in the private sector, I look at that kind of inefficiency and bloat and say, ‘Let me at it.’” There are close to one trillion dollars in defense budget cuts on the table (including sequestration and budget cuts already baked in the cake). Some of your rivals for the nomination agree with those cuts, and many Republicans on the Hill voted for them. “Let me at it” and “not going to cut” are not mutually exclusive, but it’s time to clarify.
3. In early September, you said “I’ll clamp down on the cheaters, and China is the worst example of that.” You also said: “I have no interest in starting a trade war with China, but I cannot accept our current trade surrender.” Yet in your book on American greatness, you repeatedly underscore the imperative for free trade with China, emphasizing that “China desperately needs our trade and goodwill.” A little confusing.
4. Where are you on American support for democracy movements? In May, you accused President Obama of ineffective leadership and cited the current turmoil in the Middle East: “The Arab spring came, one of the greatest opportunities we’ve seen in decades, and we’ve been flatfooted.” Amen to that. But what would you have done? Plenty on the right seem to think the Arab Spring is nothing more than a wholesale takeover by Islamists. Where do you stand?
5. This week, you talked tough on Pakistan: “It’s pretty straightforward to say, ‘Listen guys, you can’t play both sides of this game. You’ve got to decide if you’re with us or with them. If you’re with them, that will have a very significant consequence. If you’re with us, that’s a very good thing.’” You nailed Obama back in the day for his loose talk about military action in Pakistan. And one of your advisers nailed Rick Perry for his recent mumbo jumbo on a similar question. So, it’s fair to ask: what are “significant consequences”?