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 3:18 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Frida Ghitis says as violence claims three U.S. doctors, the temptation is to despair, but aid to Afghanistan has made it a much better place
updated 2:33 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says in California, Asian-Americans are against the use of racial criteria in public colleges.
updated 2:44 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Heidi Schlumpf says if the Pope did tell an Argentinian woman married to a divorced man that she could take Communion, it may signify a softening of church rules on the divorced and sacraments
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Norcross, Georgia, Chief of Police Warren Summers says the new law that allows guns in bars, churches and schools will have unintended dangerous consequences.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Mel Robbins says social media is often ruled by haters, and people can be brutally honest.
updated 12:44 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Mike Downey says the golf purists can take a hike; the game needs radical changes to win back fans and players.
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT