I’ve mentioned before that I’m discouraged about the presidential campaigns. Not the least reason is that I vote for president primarily on foreign policy and, weak as Obama has been from my point of view, Romney is shaping up to be much worse. This is actually a little bit encouraging:
JERUSALEM — Mitt Romney said Sunday that he respects the right of Israel to defend itself, but seemed to back off a foreign policy adviser’s earlier suggestion that he would support a unilateral military strike by Israel against Iran to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapon capability.
The presumptive Republican nominee began a series of meetings with top Israeli officials here Sunday and plans to deliver a muscular defense of Israel in a formal speech delivered near Jerusalem’s Old City.
Asked during an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” whether he would “support Israel’s bombing of Iran,” Romney responded, “That would be statement which would be of a different nature than what our nation has already expressed with regard to Iran. What we have said and with which I concur is that we should use every diplomatic and political vehicle that’s available to us to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear capability state…
“If all those options fail, then we do have other options and we don’t take those other options off the table. But that’s as far as I’m willing to go in terms of discussing this matter while on foreign soil.”
The dichotomy in U. S. foreign policy positions on Israel has been between the “no daylight” strategy favored by both the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations and the “conditional support” view favored by the Obama Administration. A return to the “no daylight” strategy probably won’t do a thing for Romney’s support among American Jews who, as George Will noted on This Week today, will continue to vote overwhelmingly Democratic but it will shore up his support somewhat among evangelicals, still unsure of him, who are a make or break voting bloc for him.
Unfortunately, although the “conditional support” strategy is probably objectively a better one for the United States, the Obama Administration has gotten precious little for its approach. The Arab states of the Middle East still don’t consider us an unbiased interlocutor and, honestly, the ship for that has probably sailed. The best we can be for the foreseeable future is the Far Evil as opposed to the Near Evil (Iran) and it’s hard for us to claim that status with the huge military presence we continue to have in the region.
Despite that tiny glimmer of hope in what has otherwise been one foreign policy snafu after another for the Romney campaign, I’m still unhappy. Let’s consider the possible outcomes that have even a remote likelihood of actually coming about.
Status quo: Obama re-elected, Republicans hold House, Democrats hold Senate
As Shakespeare said, nothing will come of nothing. Does anyone see any great likelihood that the Republican House will be more favorably predisposed to a lame duck Obama than they have been to a first term Obama? Or that the president will exert greater efforts to work with them now than he has to date? Or that the Senate will become less stupid if it continues under its present leadership?
Bipolar government: Obama re-elected, Republicans hold House and take Senate
At this point I think this is the most likely outcome and, if I thought that controlling Congress would make Congressional Republicans and the White House more eager to work together, it would be my favored outcome. That would, basically, be the Clinton Administration 1995-1998. Unfortunately, I think we’re more likely to get the Clinton Administration 1999-2000.
An uneasy balance: Romney elected, Republicans hold House, Democrats hold Senate
If I believed that a Democratically-controlled Senate would really act to restrain the new Romney Administration’s worst foreign policy impulses (or, as, I think Dan Drezner has suggested, that Romney is just saying the stuff about foreign policy required to get elected and would actually be more like Bush 41), this would not be an awful outcome. Unfortunately, I think the present Senate cannot be trusted to act prudently and that Romney actually believes some of the stupid things he’s been saying about foreign policy.
The Wave: Romney elected, Republicans hold House, Republicans take Senate
We’ve seen this movie before: George W. Bush in 2001-2004. During this period the federal government was not notable for either its fiscal or foreign policy restraint. If it is, in fact, true that both parties are bipolar, showing one face when out of power and one face when in power, and the face we saw during George W. Bush’s first term was the face of today’s Republican Party when in power, I do not see a return to that as something to which I’d look forward.