The Wall Street Journal has a story today about the mix of moderates and neo-conservatives in Mitt Romney’s circle of foreign policy advisors, and speculates what this means for the foreign policy his administration might pursue. But the most troubling annecdote comes from the candidate himself. The story notes that foreign policy “is hardly the campaign’s dominant focus, given voters say they care most about the economy” and concludes with this story:
Mr. Romney made that clear at a July fundraiser in Montana as he rehashed the challenges Mr. Reagan faced when he took office. He recounted how [James] Baker, a former secretary of state, held a national security meeting about Latin America during the first 100 days of Mr. Reagan’s presidency.
“And after the meeting, President Reagan called me in and said, ‘I want no more national-security meetings over the next 100 days—all of our time has to be focused on getting our economy going,’ ” Mr. Romney recalled Mr. Baker saying.
Given the challenges a Romney administration will face – from a spiraling Syria to key decisions on the way forward in Afghanistan to dealing with Iran’s nuclear program and the threats from al Qaeda in Yemen and East Africa – it is unlikely Romney will have the luxury of ignoring foreign policy for his first 100 days. Moreover, if history is any guide, the world has a way of intruding on the best laid plans of American presidents to focus on the home front (witness the EP-3 crisis with China that George W. Bush faced in his first 100 days).
But the fact that Romney thinks it would be desirable to ignore the world for his first 100 days is troubling. Yes, the American people are focused on the economy – and understandably so. But Romney isn’t running for treasury secretary – he is running for Commander in Chief. And those responsibilities begin on Day 1 of his presidency.