The Cable

Pawlenty: Romney adheres to the ‘Mitt Romney school’ of foreign policy

The biggest looming question about how a President Mitt Romney would steer the American ship of state is whether he would favor the realist tendencies of the Republican Party establishment or the neoconservative leanings of its younger generation.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, mooted by some as a possible secretary of state in a Romney administration, told The Cable in an exclusive interview Wednesday that Romney won't choose either side and would rather chart his own foreign-policy vision based on his core beliefs about how the world works and what American's role should be in it.

"I would put him in the Mitt Romney school," Pawlenty when asked to which school of foreign policy the former governor adheres.

Romney won't choose between one camp or the other and will chart out his policies on international issues on a case-by-case basis, Pawlenty said. But the evidence so far shows that Romney is more certainly more hawkish and aggressive than President Barack Obama, he said.

"If you look at [Romney's] philosophical and directional comments and policy positions, you see him speak to the importance of a strong America and that strength being backed up by the capabilities provided by a robust funding of the military," Pawlenty said.

"I think you've seen Romney take a more robust approach [than Obama] on issues such as how you deal with Russia, how you deal with China, how you deal with arming and equipping the rebels on the ground in Syria without putting American boots on the ground," Pawlenty said. "In terms of where that falls within the gradations of conservative foreign policy, I put him in the Mitt Romney's school, not somebody else's school."

The questions over Romney's foreign-policy core identity is paramount because he has little hands-on experience on international affairs, the former governor's critics say.

At a Wednesday event hosted by the Foreign Policy Initiative, a neoconservative-leaning organization, Pawlenty argued that Romney's chief national security credential is his core confidence in his foreign- policy vision and knowledge.

"Knowing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan quite well, I would say to you that they are directionally and foundationally sturdy and sound, and quite Reaganesque in that regard," Pawlenty told the audience. "Mitt Romney is a prolific reader and a student of history ... I'm highly confident it will not be amateur hour."

Pawlenty, the co-chair of Romney's campaign and a top surrogate, holds well-formed foreign policy views on a range of issues and spoke often during his bid for president about his views on foreign policy, which combines a hawkish approach to dealing with enemies with an emphasis on soft power and support for foreign aid.

He is among a few names rumored to be in contention for the job of secretary of state in a future Romney administration, along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass. Lieberman skews toward neoconservatism, Haass toward realism, with Pawlenty somewhere in between. The head of national security transition planning on the Romney campaign's "Readiness Project" is former World Bank President Bob Zoellick, a devout realist who may want the Foggy Bottom job for himself.

Pawlenty said he is not working with the "Readiness Project" in a formal way yet and declined to say whether he would accept a top job in a future Romney administration.

"I don't know what my future holds but I will tell you I'm thoroughly enjoying my time in the private sector," he said.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 of The Cable's exclusive interview with Pawlenty, which includes new information on how a Romney administration would deal with the challenges of Iran, Syria, Middle East peace, and the looming defense budget cuts.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Cable

Romney courts veterans ahead of national security night in Tampa

TAMPA — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney delivered a speech on foreign policy and national security to the American Legion in Indianapolis Wednesday just hours before several top national-security surrogates are set to speak at the Republican National Convention.

Romney began his remarks by promising America's veterans he would fix the economy and boost their chances of finding good job opportunities. He then spoke about his summer trip abroad to Britain, Israel, and Poland, and said he learned that foreign countries see a gap in American leadership abroad.

"The highlights of the trip were not just the places I visited -- like the Western Wall and Gdansk -- but the meetings I had with great champions of freedom like Benjamin Netanyahu, David Cameron, and Lech Walesa. President Walesa welcomed me in, asked me to sit down, and spoke with his characteristic candor. ‘Where is American leadership?' he said, ‘The world needs America to lead!'" Romney said.

Romney also echoed a refrain of his campaign, charging President Obama with failing to believe in the idea of American exceptionalism. He also criticized Obama's reliance on working through multilateral institutions.

"I came back home with an even deeper appreciation of the importance of strong ties with our allies -- and with an even firmer conviction that there is a role that only America can play in the world. The United Nations is a place where nations can talk, but leadership -- leadership that preserves peace and promotes freedom -- must come from the United States of America," Romney said.

He said that Obama has presided over a period of American decline internationally and has mistreated allies while coddling adversaries.

"For the past four years, President Obama has allowed our leadership to diminish. In dealings with other nations, he has given trust where it is not earned, insult where it is not deserved, and apology where it is not due," Romney said.

"A fundamental principle of American foreign policy has long been to work closely with our allies so that we can deter aggression before it breaks out into open conflict. We used to nurture our alliances and stand up for our common values. But when it comes to friends and allies like Poland, the Czech Republic, and Israel ... and with nations that oppose us like Iran and Cuba ... President Obama has moved in the opposite direction. Our foreign policy should take a page from the U.S. Marine Corps: No better friend, no worse enemy."

Romney made some specific promises to veterans. He said he would avoid defense cuts set to go into effect in January that would affect veterans, reject fee increases for veterans' healthcare, hire more Veteran's Affairs health-care workers, and fix the clogged veterans claims system.

"The problems with the VA are serious, and must be fixed. We are in danger of another generation of veterans losing their faith in VA system. On my watch, that will not be allowed to happen," Romney said.

The Obama campaign responded via a statement that Romney still hasn't set out specific policies on key national security issues and noted that Republicans are refusing to accede to Democrats' calls for increased revenues to avoid defense cuts.

"Throughout this campaign, Mitt Romney has offered a lot of reckless bluster and vague platitudes, but zero specific national security policies -- and that continued at the American Legion today. Lost in his speech was the fact that the only thing standing in the way of preventing the automatic defense cuts he decried is his refusal to ask for another dime from millionaires and billionaires," Obama campaign spokesman Lis Smith said.

"If Mitt Romney were truly serious about helping veterans, he'd tell Congressman Ryan and his Republican allies in Congress to work with the President to achieve a balanced deficit reduction plan that includes asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share while investing in veterans and the middle class -- as the President's plan does. The American people deserve more than empty rhetoric in a Commander-in-Chief."