The Cable

McCain campaign in ‘08: Romney vulnerable on foreign policy

John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign prepared an extensive opposition research file on Mitt Romney that spelled out several of Romney's flip flops on foreign policy and painted him as naïve and inexperienced on international affairs and national security.

"Romney has no foreign policy experience," reads the first bullet point in the foreign-policy section of the 200-page McCain opposition research file, posted Tuesday night by Buzzfeed. A former senior McCain campaign staffer confirmed its authenticity to The Cable. Twenty pages of the document are devoted to foreign-policy-related quotes and anecdotes the McCain campaign thought could be damaging to Romney during their 2008 primary battle.

The McCain campaign concluded that Romney was vulnerable because of statements he made seeming to endorse a "secret" timetable for Iraq withdrawal and for saying that the death of Osama bin Laden would result in a "very insignificant increase in safety" for America and that such effort was "not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars" to catch one person.

The oppo file notes that Romney's former company Bain Capital received a $2.3 million contract from the National Iranian Oil Company in 2004, after Romney left the firm, and owned a chemicals company called SigmaKalon that still operated an office in Tehran as of the time of the McCain campaign document's writing.

In 2005, Romney endorsed a plan by Citgo, which is controlled by the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chávez, to give low priced heating oil to Massachusetts residents, the McCain document noted.

Overall, the McCain's campaign's broad conclusion was that "Romney's foreign affairs resume is extremely thin, leading to credibility problems."

Neither Romney nor President Obama served in the military, so Romney's lack of service may not become a 2012 general election issue. But the staff of Navy veteran and former prisoner-of-war McCain documented that Romney received a two-and-a-half year deferment from the Vietnam draft so that he could go on his Mormon mission to France.

Upon returning to the United States, Romney received a three-year student deferment and then drew a lottery number that allowed him to wait out the end of the draft, the document noted. There was never any evidence that Romney's powerful father intervened in any way.

"I didn't go on a mission to avoid the draft ... There was nothing wrong with [the deferments]. I followed the process like any other kid ... I never asked my dad in any way to be involved with the draft board," Romney said at the time.

The McCain research also shows that Romney's ambivalence toward George W. Bush's war in Iraq, which has come up again in recent weeks, actually dates back years. In 2007, Romney rejected the Bush administration's comparison of the U.S. presence in Iraq with the U.S. presence in South Korea and criticized an enduring troop presence there.

"We have communicated to the people in the region and the country that we're not looking to have a permanent presence in Iraq and I don't think we want to communicate that we were just kidding about that," Romney said at the time.

Some of the research Team McCain collected on Romney had little political value, but was funny nonetheless.

In a 2007 speech to Cuban-American activists in Miami, Romney tried out his Spanish and said, "Patria O Muerte, Venceremos," which he didn't realize was a favorite phrase of former Cuban President Fidel Castro that means, "Fatherland or death, we shall overcome."

In the same speech, Romney was also accused of stealing a line from the movie Scarface and mispronouncing the name of then Florida State House Speaker (now senator and rumored vice presidential contender) Marco Rubio. Romney called him "Mario."

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The Cable

Rick Perry doubles down on Turkey terrorism charge

After Turkey's Foreign Ministry lashed out at GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry for saying that Turkey is led by "Islamic terrorists," the Perry campaign doubled down on those remarks and told The Cable the incident shows why Perry is bolder than President Barack Obama and GOP rival Mitt Romney on foreign policy.

"Governor Perry will not apologize because he doesn't think the comments merit an apology. He will not back down from the comments," Perry's top foreign policy advisor Victoria Coates told The Cable on Tuesday.

Coates was reacting to the Turkey's statement that it "strongly condemned" Perry's comments at Monday's GOP presidential debate, when Perry said Turkey was ruled by "what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists." He continued by saying, "Not only is it time for us to have a conversation about whether or not they belong to be in NATO, but it's time for the United States, when we look at their foreign aid, to go to zero with it."

"Turkey joined NATO while the governor was still 2 years old," the Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said. "It is a member that has made important contributions to the trans-Atlantic alliance's conflict-full history. It is among countries that are at the front lines in the fight against terrorism."

Perry himself defended the comments Tuesday afternoon. "This is a country that's got some explaining to do to the United States," Perry told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "The idea that [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan's regime has somehow or other earned our respect is not correct."

Coates pointed to the question by Fox News Channel's Bret Baier, which referred to the increased murder rate of women in Turkey, the lack of press freedom, and Turkey's support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

"The key to the whole business is to look at the question and the way it was asked," she said. "It's an important distinction that what [Perry is] saying is that the Turkish leadership is engaging in behavior that many people would associate with Islamic terrorists."

She added that Perry, who lived in Turkey as an Air Force pilot decades ago, would prefer to have a good relationship with Ankara, but "the governor's point is that [Turkish bad behavior] is not going to get better if we ignore it."

So would Perry, if elected president, put Turkey on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, along with Hamas supporters Iran and Syria? Not exactly.

"No, we would not list Turkey as a state sponsor of terrorism. We don't have any evidence of them engaging in international terrorist acts," Coates explained. "I think we know they are extremely supportive of Hamas, but these things go in stages."

But what about the new U.S. missile defense installation in Turkey and the Obama administration's efforts to encourage Turkey to push for positive change in Syria?

"We need to be very mindful of how much responsibility we hand over for something as important as the missile defense sites," said Coates. "And up until recent days, Turkey has been quite close to Syria."

Coates then called out the Romney campaign for not yet weighing in on the issue.

"It is not untypical for Gov. Perry to be more forthright about situations like this than Gov. Romney. He has less concern for niceties and is more concerned with the national security of our country," she said.

The Obama administration is ultimately responsible for "appeasing unfortunate Turkish behavior" -- part of its larger foreign-policy flaw of pursuing engagement at all costs, according to the Perry campaign.

"It is a pattern of the Obama administration that [Gov. Perry] finds deeply concerning, that outreach and engagement is the goal, whereas Gov. Perry feels that furthering American interests is the goal."

State Department spokesman Mark Toner defended Turkey at Tuesday's press briefing and said Turkey is not run by Islamic terrorists.

"We absolutely and fundamentally disagree with that assertion," Toner said. "Turkey, as I said, is a strong partner in the region. We've seen it make a very courageous stand against what's going on in Syria, for example. It continues to play a very positive and constructive role in the region.  And it is, as often cited, an example of so-called Islamic democracy in action."

The Romney campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

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