Skip to main content

Romney's reckless rhetoric

By Chris Coons, Special to CNN
updated 10:03 PM EDT, Wed July 25, 2012
Mitt Romney speaks at the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. on July 24 in Reno, Nevada.
Mitt Romney speaks at the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. on July 24 in Reno, Nevada.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chris Coons: Romney's speech was empty rhetoric cloaked in patriotic bravado
  • Coons: He promises radically increased military spending without clarity about mission
  • Romney's foreign policy team, he writes, are Bush/Cheney neocons who got U.S. into Iraq
  • Coons: Romney must move past applause lines and stop Cold War-style fear mongering

Editor's note: Chris Coons is a Democratic U.S. senator from Delaware and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

(CNN) -- When Mitt Romney took the stage at the annual VFW convention Tuesday, he had a chance to finally offer serious ideas for strengthening U.S. foreign policy and how, if elected president, he would keep our nation secure.

He didn't take it.

Missing yet another opportunity to show meaningful leadership, the former Massachusetts governor instead chose to offer more empty rhetoric cloaked in patriotic bravado. His campaign appears more focused on mocking the successful foreign policy of President Barack Obama, who has undoubtedly made America safer, than on revealing exactly how a Romney administration would engage with the world.

Refusing to acknowledge our nation's recent successes in global leadership, Romney again on Tuesday pivoted to the shallow rhetoric at the core of his campaign: boasts of American exceptionalism with no mention of partnership with our allies; promises of radically increased military spending without clarity about its mission; and provocative language toward countries such as China and Russia that even a member of his own party has criticized.

Romney camp disavows anonymous quote in British paper

Chris Coons
Chris Coons

Tuesday's speech served as a clear reminder of why Romney so rarely speaks of national security, which is normally a sacred and central issue for Republican candidates. Perhaps it's because when he does, he says things such as "Russia is our No. 1 geopolitical foe."

Romney has done little to show he has the judgment and vision to lead and protect this nation in a dangerous world. He seems to know it, too, and has surrounded himself with an array of Bush administration veterans, most of whom are best known for their roles in sending the United States into a war in Iraq that has cost this nation trillions of dollars and the lives of 4,488 brave members of the U.S. military.

Roughly 70% of Romney's foreign policy team comes from the Bush/Cheney neo-con all-star team. His few foreign policy quips on the stump and his unwillingness to stand apart from the Bush administration's high-profile failures raise serious questions about the direction he would lead U.S. foreign policy as president.

So far during this campaign, Romney has threatened a trade war with China and has vowed to increase the military's budget by a staggering $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years, although he won't say how he'll pay for it or what he'll do with the additional spending. He has repeatedly criticized Obama's plan to bring U.S. forces home from Afghanistan by 2014, only to eventually endorse that strategy in his speech Tuesday.

Is Romney getting Swift-boated?

Romney has said he'd simply refuse to negotiate with the Taliban and instead would pursue and target each of its members across the world. That's a strategy that even Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, has said is a bad idea.

Romney's record of reckless rhetoric stands in sharp contrast with Obama's successful foreign policy and national security strategy -- one that doesn't rely solely on strong military action but smartly invests in diplomacy and development and focuses on real threats instead of political convenience.

Under Obama's leadership, we have destroyed al Qaeda's leadership and ended Osama bin Laden's reign of terror. Obama has fulfilled his promise to get U.S. forces out of Iraq and set a course out of Afghanistan, wisely focusing U.S. resources on more urgent threats to our national security.

He has stood firmly by our friend, Israel, deepening our defense and security partnership and taking strong steps to deter Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. He has repaired our alliances and restored America's standing and credibility in the world -- as a leader not only in force but in values.

Romney calls for a change in hearts, not gun laws

Without question, Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have made our country safer. They have led a national security strategy that is wisely cautious and stands in sharp contrast with Romney's wildly dangerous rhetoric.

If Romney has any serious ideas about how to make the United States safer, now is the time for him to offer them. If he is to lead our country, or even just his party, Romney must move past applause lines and catch up to a world that has moved on from Cold War-style fear mongering and feckless grandstanding.

Voters should demand better from a man who would be president.

Romney walks political tightrope on foreign policy

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Chris Coons.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 2:27 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT