There is a need to go beyond the surface in examining Mitt Romney’s just completed venture on to the international stage. Despite the questionable remarks in Britain and the storm he caused among the Palestinians in Israel, this entire trip will probably be long forgotten and irrelevant for most American voters in November. Admittedly, some key segments of Jewish voters in a few key swing states undoubtedly will be pounded with anti-Obama attack ads produced in part with footage from this trip. Thanks in large measure to the millions in new money that Romney raised and was pledged to him at his Jerusalem fund-raiser, these voters will receive a non-stop blitz of ads pushing the likely Republican nominee’s reputed superior, reliable support for Israel over the incumbent in the White House.
There is a much deeper concern which ought to be considered, however, in evaluating the Romney trip. Beyond his advisers and spinmeisters who have been trying to straighten out the Romney bloopers, there continues to be an absence of interest or enthusiasm for Romney in general among the GOP base when it comes to foreign policy. While Republicans continue to support a strong national security policy, it is not very clear how they believe that power should be employed, when, or under what circumstances. The concern here is whether among the Republican Tea Party supporters who have become so crucial for Romney in this year’s election, their non-interventionist, neo-isolationist position is growing?
The latest flag for this concern emerged in considering the results of the Texas Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat held by the retiring Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Ted Cruz, with the backing of the Tea Party, defeated Lt. Governor David Dewhurst by more than 10 percent of the votes. Dewhurst had the support of the popular Republican Governor Rick Perry, whose conservative credentials should have been able to carry his own Lt. Governor to victory. The Cruz victory (which should be tantamount to election in November in Texas) when added to other Tea Party success this year, translates into a real potential leaning in an anti-internationalist direction.
The Tea Party succeeded earlier in defeating Senator Richard Lugar in the Republican Indiana Senate primary. Lugar, a centrist Republican who had been the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was a leading internationalist foreign policy voice in the Republican Party. Other Tea Party House and Senate candidates appear to reflect a non-engagement foreign policy direction which could clearly influence a Romney Administration. When joined with the voices of Representative Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Senator Jim DeMint, and others–whatever their agenda might be on taxes, economics, healthcare, and other domestic issues–this direction for the GOP ought to pose at least as much concern about the foreign policy positions of a Romney Administration, as do inappropriate remarks made on a pre-election global swing by the presumptive Republican candidate.