Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was criticized Tuesday for giving a national security speech light on details, and today a top Republican pundit called on him to stop downplaying the importance of national security on the stump.
Weekly Standard editor William Kristol called out Romney today for what he sees as the candidate's unhelpful statements on national security priorities. Kristol references a Wall Street Journal article in which Romney is said to quote former Secretary of State James Baker saying that President Ronald Reagan decided not to have any national security meetings in his first 100 days as president, after Baker convened one meeting related to Latin America.
"And after the meeting, President Reagan called me in and said, ‘I want no more national-security meetings over the next 100 days-all of our time has to be focused on getting our economy going,'" Romney recalled Baker saying, according to the Journal.
Kristol actually reviewed the archives of Reagan's meetings from the Reagan Foundation records and said the anecdote was either false or that Reagan's comments were never meant to be taken literally.
"In fact, I'll buy Jim Baker a very good dinner next time he's in Washington if he or anyone else can find a 100-day stretch (or a 10-day stretch) of the Reagan presidency in which President Reagan was involved in no national security meetings," Kristol wrote. "To say nothing of the fact that he ran for the presidency highlighting national security issues, and was a historic president in large part because of his national security accomplishments.
"So, reminder to Mitt Romney: With respect to the presidency, national security isn't a bug; it's a feature," Kristol said.
Romney's use of the anecdote also upset former Bush advisor Marc Thiessen, who wrote on the website of the American Enterprise Institute that Romney's use of the anecdote shows a misunderstanding of the presidency and the world the next president will inherit.
"But the fact that Romney thinks it would be desirable to ignore the world for his first 100 days is troubling," Thiessen wrote. "Yes, the American people are focused on the economy -- and understandably so. But Romney isn't running for Treasury secretary -- he is running for commander in chief. And those responsibilities begin on Day 1 of his presidency."
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.