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NYTimes: Republicans, in Search of a Foreign Policy

Author: Brian Katulis
August 31, 2012


MITT ROMNEY stuck fast to his foreign-policy playbook in his acceptance speech Thursday night — sloganeering about American exceptionalism, sneering at President Obama's record on Iran and Israel, and obscuring his own lack of new ideas. He said he would "honor America's democratic ideals because a free world is a more peaceful world" and he praised the "bipartisan foreign policy legacy of Truman and Reagan," but said nothing specific about how he would follow in their footsteps.

The vagueness seems like a strategy in itself, and there's a good explanation: the disarray in his own party over national security. Today's Republicans are as divided on foreign policy as they've ever been, and Mr. Romney is finding it hard to bridge the divisions. No wonder he zoomed past foreign policy in some 3 minutes of a 39-minute speech.

Centrists and neoconservatives are divided not only over security strategy, but the conservative base is also fractured over government spending — including the defense budget. Neoconservatives who opposed even the modest defense cuts suggested by former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have come up against neo-isolationist Tea Party-backed tax-cutters and their guru, Grover G. Norquist. At the same time, some Republicans who have long said that government spending doesn't generally create jobs have promised — hypocritically — to oppose defense cuts that might cause job losses back at home.

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