The Rachel Maddow Show | July 25, 2012
>>> mitt romney wanted to be the republican presidential nominee in the 2008 election. and he failed. he got close, but he didn't win the nomnomination. senator john mccain won. then he lost to now president barack obama . that was the bad news for mitt romney and the republicans. the good news is there was a lot for mitt romney to learn from the '08 campaign from mccain and his own example. for example, do not pick an untested, unvetted shoot for the stars running mate. it will not end well for you. another lesson was a little less obvious and a little more personal. one mitt romney needed to learn the hard way. even if the election doesn't seem like it's all about foreign policy , you have to at least appear like you know what the heck you are talking about. you're asking to be the commander in chief, not the haircut in chief. do not confuse all of the badi y i guys, all of the people who don't like america and each other and roll them into one ball of evil.
>> this is about hezbollah and hamas and al qaeda . this is a worldwide jihadist effort to try to cause the collapse of all islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate.
>> it's not theat. half of those people hate the other half. that's not true. a couple days after revealing that, he single-handedly manufactured an even bigger embarrassment. what is the one thing you know about the war in iraq ? what is the one thing every single reputable every foreign policy expert agrees on? what is the big agreed upon fact? when the united states invaded in 2003 , saddam hussein did not not, not have weaponed of mass destruction .
>> am i the only one thinking in all of the build-up to the war, those weapons of mass destruction got moved?
>> it's possible.
>> it's entirely possible.
>> what he said there was that the wmds got moved to syria, and no, they did not. it's not even remotely possible that saddam had wmds at the time. even bush agreed it wasn't remotely possible. it's just a little embarrassing. now it's 2012 and he has a shot at the presidency all over again and he gets a do-over. few people remember that he didn't know the bad guys . he's got a chance to prove himself a serious foreign policy guy who should be elected president of a country that is still at war even today. we may not act like a country at war, but we are at war and mitt romney wants to be the guy in charge of that war. for my entire lifetime, there has been a singular republican playbook that has been incredibly successful against democrats and it goes like this. republicans are hawkish and tough and uncompromising on security. they will protect you. whereas democrats are weak and they enjoy funny kinds of sailing and all of the flip-flopping. it would be foolish for any republican to see the foreign policy snalsh security advance to democrats. so this year, romney in a close election needed to get it right. on the economy, sure, but don't give up the whole national security thing. the problem is mitt romney is running against the president who finally killed osama bin laden and ended the really, really unpopular war in iraq and who amped up the drone war like it or not, who has killed almost every guy to hold the title al qaeda 's number three. what does romney say about al qaeda to differentiate himself from the president, how does he come across tougher than president obama ? yesterday, he spoke to the veterans of foreign war . the topics were the military and national security and external threats, et cetera . not once in his speech did he mention the phrase al qaeda . not once. go ahead, we have linked the transcript on our blog. go there, hit control f, and type in al qaeda . you get nothing. in anticipation of that speech, romney campaign put out this fact sheet . there were lots and lots of bullet points brk not any mentions of al qaeda . control f al qaeda , butkus. as we speak, mitt romney is on a foreign tour. his own campaign is pushing it as a big deal and a chance for the candidate to display his foreign policy global bona fides . there is something missing from the map, though. it makes sense why he would go to tlondon for the olympics, and israel is a key ally, and poland, you don't forget pole ntd, but how do you go on your big presidential trip as a presidential candidate and not going to afghanistan? how do you not go to where we're still at war? in an interview today with brian williams , he turned down the chance, but if you compare his foreign policy and obama 's foreign policy , you see that while mitt is good at using the tough sounding words that have worked so well for republicans for a generation, he's less good at actually differentiating himself from the president. joining us now is spencer acuman, national security writer, a friend of mine, and somebody who has dug deep into romney 's foreign policy . good to see you. you wrote a great piece today, and the title was the 5 thinks we learned about how mitt would run the world. number one is he seems to run the world when it comes to afghanistan, egypt, and iran a lot like obama is running the world.
>> a lot like if romney hired obama 's aides but they had nothing but bad things to say about themselves. you get a lot of rhetoric about how this is failed policy, an overly politicized policy, but i'm going to do the same thing.
>> they don't have functional disagreements, but they have sort of big rhetorical agreements. he said obama has been apologizing for america , and a broad point he makes is the difference between him and obama is resolve, will. he'll have the resolve and there's nothing we can't do if we put our backs into it. that reminds me of early term george w. bush . it was about how much america wanted it. the real lesson romney 's camp, the people who are chacined by the bush administration , they have to be reeling from that.
>> if you want to look to the guy whose words and actions match up and have been more consistent, that's obama . it's not romney . it's obama who in 2007 said he was doing to have an all-out effort to kill osama bin laden with or without pakistan. obama said who he was going to increase troop levels in pakistan. who said he was going to end the rack war. when you look at romney then, sometimes now, sometimes last tuesday, sometimes next wednesday, it's a little different. you've got an actually more hawkish romney on iran than you do this time around. russia is the biggest foe until this new speech at the vfw in which iran poses the danger. it's more difficult to get a sense of where that resolve actually plays out, and i tell you, i wanted to walk out on this speech so badly. and romney denied me the facts, figures, numbers.
>> with a graph, it's hard to do it. on iran , he said now iran is the single biggest threat. obama has done a major virus attack on iran to bring down some of the nuclear reactors. he has been a participant in multiple rounds of sanctions. how different was what romney opposed to do in iran than what obama proposed?
>> it's a lot more bellicose. it's very contemperature of what obama did by saying at the beginning of his presidency he was going to talk to iran without preconditions. on the level of substance, very different. romney didn't rule out negotiating with iran . he just simply said that zero enrichment of uranium was the goal. didn't clarify whether that was the beginning of talks or the end point to them, but didn't immediately say the bombs are going to drop in five minutes. similarly, he's really against russia . he's against obama moving closer to russia . however, if he backs away from that position, russia has every incentive as it did before the obama administration's drift toward russia to go back to helpen iran and frustrating international consensus on iran . it's hard to see how that knits together for romney and his advisers kind of play that away rather than deal with it head on.
>> spencer, national security writer for wire.com's danger room . i'm sorry you were denied the opportunity to walk out today.
>>> maximum information, minimum lapsed time. the wonkiest two minutes in television are coming up next.