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 8:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
You could be forgiven for thinking no one cares -- or even should care, right now -- about climate change, writes CNN's John Sutter. But you'd be mistaken.
updated 5:32 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
David Gergen says the White House's war against ISIS is getting off to a rough start and needs to be set right
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
updated 3:17 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says making rude use of the Mexican flag on Mexican independence day in a concert in Mexico was extremely tasteless, but not an international incident.
updated 9:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Michael Dunn is going to stand trial again after a jury was unable to reach a verdict; Mark O'Mara hopes for a fair trial.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
updated 5:47 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
updated 3:27 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Laurence Steinberg says the high obesity rate among young children is worrisome for a host of reasons
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
updated 11:01 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT