Your humble blogger is badly behind on many day-job activities. As a result, I'm afraid that I can't comment in detail on Mitt Romney's foreign policy VFW speech. There was stuff in there that resonated with me and stuff that had me shaking my head.
My key takeaway, however, is that there was actual stuff in the speech. The contrast with Rick Perry's VFW speech is pretty striking. Looking at the two of them back-to-back, one can see a similar set of applause lines. The difference is that Romney's speech contains actual, specitic critiques of Obama's foreign policies. These critiques can be debated, but at least there's content to debate about in this speech.
In contrast, as previously noted, Perry's speech lacked anything remotely resembling content.
Perry is a late entry to the 2012 nomination, so maybe this is just a case of being new to the campaign trail. Maybe foreign policy is not a subject that Perry likes to focus on. I honestly don't know, and I'll be looking for more content as the campaign intensifies.
Am I missing anything?
So I see Rick Perry gave a quasi-foreign policy speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars 112th National Convention. Here's the gist of the foreign policy section:
James Lindsay analyzes the content over at CFR, concluding that, "There is something in it for every significant foreign policy constituency in the GOP," although "any mainstream Republican or Democratic presidential candidate could have given Perry’s speech." This is likely because, "while Perry’s speech was heavy on foreign policy bromides it was short on specifics."
Lindsay is being kind -- this speech is ninety-eight percent concentrated pablum (contra Lindsay, the "multilateral debating society" crack does signal it being a GOP speech). Seriously, I hereby challenge my friends at Shadow Government who might be Perry-friendly to find something of interest in this speech. It's the foreign policy equivalent of this scene from The Distinguished Gentleman:
Now, to be fair to Perry, this San Antonio News-Express news story suggests that he had some constraints on what kind of speech he could deliver. So, really, I'm not sure that anything of consequence can be divined from this.... er.... assemblage of cliches that maybe, just maybe, passes the Turing Test.
Still, what Perry said is such pure, unadulterated boilerplate that, as a foreign policy commentator, one must step back and gape in wonder. Reading it, the absence of anything interesting kept nagging me as hauntingly familiar.
And then I realized -- Rick Perry had just delivered the Wolf Blitzer of foreign policy speeches!! It's familiar, yet utterly devoid of interesting content!!
And for that, Rick Perry is the distinguished inaugural nominee of the Wolf Blitzer Award for Foreign Policy Boilerplate.
As FP's indefatigable Josh Rogin reported yesterday, GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty will " deliver a major address on foreign policy on Tuesday in what his top aides are billing as a rebuttal to what they see as President Barack Obama's flawed May 19 speech.
Your humble blogger will be listening in -- live!!-- and will provide real-time updates on the blog and on Twitter.
I'll be looking for two things from this speech. First, how does Pawlenty straddle between his more neocon-friendly foreign policy approach with the stronger streak of retrenchment rhetoric that permeates the current GOP primary voter? Will he at least sound isolationism-curious, or will he conclude that the Tea Party's influence is waning? As I said before, my money is that he'll cozy up to this wing by sounding protectionist trade themes. The foreign policy pickings of Pawlenty's website are pretty slim.
Second, will Pawlenty score any Trumpie nominations? He came veeeeery close during the New Hampshire debate with his casual assertion that the United States could grow at 5% a year for a decade because China and Brazil had done it -- ignoring the vast differences in economic development between the United States and those two BRIC economies.
The speech will begin at 9:30 AM, so tune in
so my life has meaning so you can learn what a GOP candidate thinks about the world!
[UPDATE] Live-tweets below, summary analysis at the bottom:
9:33 AM: Pawlenty starts by praising CFR #itsbeensoooooolongsinceIheardarepublicandothat
9:34 AM: T-Paw on U.S. in Middle East: "now is not the time to retreat from freedom's rise."
9:36 AM: T-Paw ain't coddling Tea Partiers -- bashes members of GOP for "out-isolating" Democrats.
9:37 AM: T-Paw: "History teaches us there is no such thing as stable oppression."#haveyouheardofthedarkages
9:38 AM: T-Paw blasts Obama for being silent during Iran's 2009 Green Movement, cutting democracy aid to Egypt during same year.
9:42 AM: T-Paw has four categories of ME countries. Category 1: emerging democracies in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Iraq. US must support democracy.
9:43 AM: T-Paw makes shrewd point that revolution in Egypt has caused a populist rejection of economic reforms that Mubarak instituted in past decade
9:44 AM: On Libya, T-Paw rejects "leading from behind" (GASP!!) recognizing TNC, and using full weight of U.S. force to ensure regime change.
9:45 AM: T-Paw's second category -- the monarchies. Claims Jordan, Morocco are engaging in "real reforms" Paging @blakehounshell
9:46 AM: T-Paw observes that U.S.-Saudi relaions are a a new low, but NOT because of Arab Spring. Apparently due to Obama cozying up to Iran. Hmm...
9:48 AM: T-Paw's Category 3: anti-US states of Iran, Syria. Blasts Obama for staying too close to Bashir Assad for too long. #fairpoint
9:49 AM: T-Paw's Category 3: anti-US states of Iran, Syria. Blasts Obama for staying too close to Bashir Assad for too long. #fairpoint
9:50 AM: T-Paw argues for "more forceful sanctions" to push business elites in Syria away from Assad regime #yeahthatwilldoit
9:52 AM: On Iran, T-Paw also calls for new, tougher sanctions as a policy solution. #sanctionsarenomagicbullet
9:52 AM: T-Paw's Category 4 is.... Israel!!! "Nowhere is Obama's lack of judgment clearer"
9:53 AM: T-Paw: Obama's Israel-Palestinan obsession is absurd - Arab Spring shows that conflict is NOT at the heart of the Middle East
9:54 AM: T-Paw: Peace will only come to Israel/Palestine when everyone in the region recognizes the US totally has Israel's back
9:57 AM: T-Paw: "America is exceptional, and we have the moral clarity to lead the world."
9:58 AM: T-Paw says that everyone should listen to David Petraeus the most on Afghanistan
9:59 AM: T-Paw goes off on Republican isolationists, arguing that one party focusing on decline & retrenchment is enough.
10:00 AM: Jon Meacham is moderating the Q&A. His first response to T-Paw: "Withdrawal? Decline? Retrenchment? Really?"
10:05 AM: Pawlenty acknowledges that autocracies can't be converted into democracies overnight, "takes generations."
10:08 AM: T-Paw: War on Terror will require a long, "episodic" commitment
10:10 AM: Asked about worse possibilities after Assad, T-Paw responds, "No one ever asked who would follow Hitler."
10:11 AM: BREAKING: Pawlenty pledges US will not invade every Middle Eastern country. #phew
10:15 AM: BREAKING: Pawlenty really does not like "cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all" foreign policy strategies #anticookieist
10:19 AM: Pawlenty: U.S. should "not necessarily" use military force in Syria.
10:21 AM: Pawlenty thinks Obama "dithered for a month" at the moment when U.S. force could have pushed Khaddafy out.
10:27 AM: James Traub from @FP_Magazine asks what to do about elections leading to anti-Israeli leaders in ME. T-Paw: start early, think long-term
My final assessment: Pawlenty successfully skirted a Trumpie nomination -- he exaggerated Obama's cozying up to Iran, but that's pretty much GOP boilerplate at this point. Pawlenty was also quite outspoken in attacking "isolationists' within the GOP as well.
The occasionally overheated piece of rhetoric aside, this was a reasonably coherent speech that placed way too much faith in the ability of more sanctions to force out regimes in Iran and Syria.
What do you think?
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.