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Romney: A Little Foreign Policy Know-How Is Enough For A President

Reported by Ellen - January 3, 2008 -

Mitt Romney visited Hannity & Colmes again last night (1/2/08) and for the third time in as many visits, talked out of both sides of his mouth. First, Romney “explained” that while it’s important for a president to have foreign policy experience, expertise in foreign policy is not a requirement. Then Romney “elucidated” why his criticisms of President Bush were acceptable but Mike Huckabee’s were not. With video.

While it was Sean Hannity’s turn, he asked Romney about the issue of foreign policy experience. As I previously posted, last week, Romney defended his lack of foreign policy experience by telling substitute co-host Rich Lowry, “If we want somebody who has a lot of experience in foreign policy, we can simply go to the State Department and pluck out one of the tens of thousands of people who work there. They have, of course, been doing foreign policy all their careers. But that’s not how we choose a president. A president is not a foreign policy expert.”

But last night, when Hannity brought up the issue, Romney insisted that while some foreign policy know-how is important in a presidential candidate, it's not as important as managerial experience.

At about three minutes into the interview, Hannity asked, “Senator McCain, who you’re battling and you’re in a close battle with in New Hampshire, his ad came out and quoted you saying that a president doesn’t need foreign policy experience, and I thought in these final hours, or the final 24 hours leading up to the Iowa caucuses here, you may want to respond.”

“I didn’t say you don’t have to have foreign policy experience,” Romney said (though what foreign policy experience does Romney have? Hannity, not surprisingly, didn’t ask). “I said we don’t choose a president based on his foreign policy expertise or being an expert. And of course we want to have people that understand foreign matters and that is important in our selection of a president. But that alone is not how we choose a president. Frankly, if we just wanted somebody who had a lot of experience and was an expert in foreign policy, we could go to the State Department and pick a random employee out. Instead, we want a leader, somebody who’s actually led at a critical time, who’s run things.”

In other words, even in this post-9/11 world where we’re engaged in two wars, just a little bit of foreign policy cred, probably the kind, say, that you’d get running the Olympics or the State of Massachusetts, is enough.

During his shorter turn with Romney, Alan Colmes brought up the candidate's recent attack on Mike Huckabee for criticizing Bush’s “arrogant bunker mentality” with regard to Bush’s foreign policy. Then, citing Romney’s own recent criticism of Bush’s management of the war in Iraq, Colmes asked, “Which is it? I’m confused about where you stand on Bush’s war policy and how he managed the war.”

“Don’t be so confused, Alan,” Romney said with a slick smile. “I do respect the fact that George W. Bush has kept us safe these last six years, and I think President Bush would be among the first to say that following the collapse of Saddam Hussein we were under-prepared and under-staffed and under-planned and that there were lapses of management – Abu Ghraib is one that he points to. At the same time, at this stage, we’re not gonna walk out of Iraq and leave the job and a setting where you could have Al Qaeda play a dominant role. But this is a message I’ve been carrying ever since I’ve been a candidate for president. I respect the president. I support the troop surge. But I also agree that there have been a number of mistakes made over these past several years.”

Translation: It's OK for Romney to criticize President Bush but Huckabee can't.

I was dying to know what the follow-up question was going to be but Colmes’ time was up and the segment ended.