What we learned from the primaries

We learned Mitt Romney is not a greatly improved candidate from four years ago. He has endurance and discipline: He wants this thing. The reason why is still not fully clear. His political instincts and sense of subject matter are not much better than they were in 2008. The awkwardness continues. A major if largely unspoken Republican criticism of Mr. Romney is exactly like a major if largely unspoken Democratic criticism of President Obama: He’ll meet with you, he’s polite and appropriate, but he gives no sign afterward that he heard you, that he absorbed or pondered what you said. Nor is his campaign greatly improved. It gets the job done but it is stolid, unimaginative, small-bore. There’s a managerial tightness. People are afraid to make decisions, and pass the buck upward. A major surrogate calls the campaign “the Romney labyrinth.”…

Finally, in foreign affairs the Republican candidates staked out dangerous ground. They want to show they’re strong on defense. Fine, we should have a strong defense, the best in the world. But that is different from having an aggressive foreign policy stance, and every one of the GOP candidates, with the exceptions of Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, was aggressive. This is how their debates sounded: We should bomb Iran Thursday. No, stupid, we should bomb Iran on Wednesday. How could you be so foolish? You know we do all our bombings on Monday. You’re wrong, we send in the destroyers and arm the insurgents on Monday…

They are allowing the GOP to be painted as the war party. They are ceding all nonwar ground to the president, who can come forward as the sober, constrained, nonbellicose contender. Do they want that? Are they under the impression America is hungry for another war? Really? After the past 11 years?