A few weeks ago Dan Drezner called me "curiously lazy" for writing that we shouldn't pay much attention to what presidential candidates say about foreign policy during campaigns, especially when they say things like this:
At some point Romney will be asked direct questions about foreign policy. When he [is] asked those questions he will say things like "I will get tough with China to make sure they play by the rules and stop stealing American jobs" and "I will not let terrorists kill American citizens, and I will do whatever is necessary to keep Americans safe" and "I will keep America strong by not cutting our military budget" and "Screw Russia".While Drezner acknowledged in that post that campaign rhetoric is just campaign rhetoric, he suggested that Romney still needed to talk more about foreign policy in order to "demonstrat[e] leadership" over his campaign, whatever that means. Now Drezner says:
So, does it matter for policy? Well.... no.
Mario Cuomo once said "You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose." Now, Mario Cuomo was clearly the world's worst poetry connoisseur. Still, to update his observation for our current needs, we can say, "You campaign as a mercantilist; you govern as a free-trader." The reason that Romney has seemed so discombobulated by the Bain attacks is that he's been China-bashing since Day One ofhis campaign, so it's tough to then
flip-floppivot to a free trade stance. ...
As stomach-churning as I find this kind of ad, I must reluctantly agree with Yglesias and Brooks that it doesn't matter all that much for governing. ...
I don't think the mercantilist campaign rhetoric will amount to much.Right. So: Romney's gonna say nationalist stuff, he's gonna say mercantilist stuff, and you shouldn't pay attention to any of it because it won't have an effect on policy or the election. Same for Obama. This is pretty much exactly what I said in my "lazy" post, which concluded thusly:
This is not meant to say that Romney's foreign policy decisions will not be important. They will be. It's just that we won't learn much about what they will be from any campaign statements.Drezner is so chagrined by all this foreign policy talk (which he asked for) that he anticipates the next few months of the campaign will be "nauseating". Perhaps. If so, and assuming he's not a masochist, he might be well-served to take my initial advice: just don't pay attention to it. It's not lazy; it might even be wise.
(The only other similarity between our two posts? Drezner refers to "campaign bluster" where I write "campaign blather". I also refer to "bloviating". I prefer my choice of 'b'-words, but I suppose that's a matter of preference.)
(One last little thing: Drezner argued, contra me in my "lazy" post, that Romney -- being a smart guy -- surely knows the difference between neoconservatism and realpolitik. I know of no reason to believe this is true. Certainly Romney himself has given us no reason to believe this is true. James Joyner sees Romney's foreign policy as "realist". Jacob Heilbrunn sees it as neoconservative. Romney talks about a "new American Century" -- neocon -- but thinks we'll bring that about by balancing against the rise of China and Russia (!) -- realist. Mostly he seems to think that the U.S. should be strong, which is congruent with both neoconservatism and realpolitik. So you tell me.)