Romney to walk into the lion’s den; plans trip, speeches abroad
posted at 12:33 pm on July 21, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
In July of 2008, Barack Obama gave a speech at the Victory Column in Berlin to establish his bona fides as a prospective world leader and diplomat, a man at ease among kings and counselors.
At the time, the decision by an American presidential candidate to hold what was essentially a campaign rally on foreign soil struck some people as odd. None was more nonplussed than German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was perhaps still reeling from the initial planned site of the speech, the Brandenburg Gate, which had provided a backdrop for Ronald Reagan’s historic 1987 “tear down this wall” speech.
That was four years ago. The question now is how Mitt Romney will fare during and following his own speeches abroad.
You read right. The Associated Press reports that the GOP candidate plans on lifting a chapter out of candidate Obama’s playbook next week, when he “travels to England, Israel and Poland looking to establish credibility as a potential commander in chief”:
For the Republican presidential hopeful—a former private equity executive and Massachusetts governor with little formal experience overseas—it’s a chance to demonstrate competence in settings often occupied by presidents. He’ll hold formal meetings with foreign leaders, give public speeches and visit historic sites.
Aides say it’s a chance for the candidate to forge links with strong U.S. allies and show that he’ll stand up for shared values.
There’s also risk: Romney, sometimes prone to misstatements, faces higher stakes wading into delicate diplomatic disputes than he does on the more familiar campaign trail at home. And executing a complicated trip through three countries over a weeklong span presents the most difficult logistical challenge Romney’s campaign has yet faced.
As a past corporate executive, Romney should know better. He should be aware that the best place to acquire foreign policy credentials is not out in the “field” but inside the “boardroom,” where the only audience for any missteps will be his advisers.
It is true that foreign policy is one area in which Romney is still viewed as lagging behind the president. A CBS/New York Times poll this week found Obama ahead by 7 percentage points, 47% to Romney’s 40%. But the same poll also showed Romney ahead for the first time, if by a hair, in the more important question of who the respondent supports in the upcoming election.
The AP article notes that “Romney plans to outline his foreign policy vision in a speech Tuesday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev., before flying to London and the Olympic Games. He goes to Israel from there and finishes in Poland. While abroad, he plans major speeches in Jerusalem and Warsaw, though advisers say he’ll steer clear of outlining specific policy proposals in those addresses.”
Smart money dictates that the trip should not only begin with the Reno speech but end with it. If Romney does go ahead with his plans to speak on the world stage, one can only hope he will resists bowing to his peers abroad.
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