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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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