Tuesday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow expressed her growing dismay at former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)’s apparent lack of knowledge on foreign policy matters, and his apparent lack of concern about learning anything more.
She kicked off the segment with a story about a fundraising trip Romney took to Montana in July of this year. The former governor told a group of donors a story about former Republican President Ronald Reagan, a story that was allegedly told to him by former Secretary of State Jim Baker. In it, the newly sworn-in Reagan told his aides that for the first 100 days of his presidency, he didn’t want to take any national security meetings, but rather insisted on focusing on the economy and nothing else.
“It turns out that this never happened,” Maddow said. ”Ronald Reagan never stopped all of his security briefings and said he needed to focus on the economy instead.”
Baker himself said that his remarks to Romney must have been “misunderstood,” that the former president never did any such thing.
The important thing about this particular parting of the ways between Romney and the truth, said Maddow, is that he seems to believe that this is a model of good governance, to shove aside matters of national security altogether for three and a half months while you fix the economy. Even Romney supporters like Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard took exception to that plan, calling it “troubling.”
And while Maddow said that there is probably nothing that she and the neocons agree on, they can agree on this. National security is part of the job of being president.
“National security is just not something that a president can say he doesn’t want to work on,” she said. “I mean, who’s going to work on it if you don’t?”
Maddow then pointed back to the October 2000 debate performances of former President George W. Bush, who at that time said that he didn’t believe in committing U.S. troops to nation building overseas.
“Turns out, you don’t get to decide what sort of presidency you have,” she said. “George W. Bush in 2000 was essentially saying he wanted to have a domestic policy presidency. Remember ‘compassionate conservatism?’ His big idea about our role in the world was that we should have less of a role in the world.”
“You do not get to opt out of whole swaths of your responsibility ” as Commander in Chief, she said. George Bush didn’t set out to be a wartime president, but he was overtaken by events. ”And into the void of his lack of any substantive ideas on foreign policy at all, into that vacuum stepped a whole, very organized group of unelected, opportunistic, frankly, radicals,” the neocons, ushering in the long foreign policy nightmare that the U.S. is currently trying to recover from.
Now, she said, the Republicans are offering us another “non-foreign-policy” presidential candidate in Romney, who didn’t even mention foreign policy in his closing remarks at the third presidential debate, which was set aside specifically for the discussion of foreign policy.
She then zeroed in on Romney’s dramatic flip-flop on the timeline for a withdrawal from Afghanistan. All through the Republican primary and the summer’s campaigning, Romney said that the worst mistake President Barack Obama has made regarding Afghanistan was the announcement of a firm timetable for withdrawal, the 2014 deadline. Then, suddenly, at Monday’s debate, he embraced the timeline.
“I use this term with hesitance, but that reflects a certain lack of seriousness about something that every single day affects 68,000 American families directly,” she said, because they have a family member serving in Afghanistan.
This, she said, is Romney’s most fundamental failure of the “Commander in Chief test,” that he would be so blithe and superficial about such an important matter of national security. His own advisers have wondered aloud to the New York Times whether or not their boss is even bothering to read the foreign policy briefs that they prepare for him.
It’s the not-caring that is, to Maddow, the newest and most deeply disturbing thing about the Romney campaign for the presidency, the fact that they can’t be bothered to look at a map and note that Syria is not, in fact, Iran’s “route to the sea.”
“This is one job where you don’t get the choice,” she insisted, “There’s noting in the Commander in Chief portfolio of responsibilities that can be delegated to somebody else. And when people try, we get historic disasters in this country.”
Watch the video, embedded via MSNBC, below: