(Caricature by DonkeyHotey)
SCARBOROUGH: Are you concerned with the foreign-policy advisers that Mitt Romney surrounded himself with, that there aren't enough sergeants, and there aren't enough people with on the ground experience and that we seem to have yet another Republican candidate who is sort of top heavy when it comes to neoconservatives around him?Powell himself could have done the nation a great service by giving second thought to the neoconservative crap pile of fabricated evidence he knew was a lie but presented anyway to the United Nations in February 2003 to garner support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. A fair chunk of Mitt Romney's roster of foreign policy advisers is far right, to be sure. But the more important description is that they have been so very far wrong.
POWELL: I've noticed that. I don't know who all of his advisers are, but I've seen some of the names, and some of them are quite far to the right, and sometimes they, I think, might be in a position to make judgments or recommendations to the candidate that should get a second thought. For example, when governor Romney not too long ago said, you know, the Russian Federation is our number-one geostrategic threat. Well, c'mon Mitt, think. It isn't the case. And I don't know whether Mitt really feels that, or, whether it was …
BRZEZINSKI: Or whether someone told him to say it?
POWELL: I don't know, you ask him.
Given Romney's unnuanced foreign policy views and his superhawk allegiance, Powell has a second chance to give the nation a genuine service by being more specific and serrated in his critiques. Sure, there's that brainless stuff in Romney's growing gaffe gallery. But the fact the GOP candidate seems to think Russia is the most important geostrategic threat to the United States (while some of the lesser lights among his advisers spew anachronistic dog-whistles about the "Soviets") is hardly the worst problem in his views.
Romney has not sought advice from his party's old internationalist wing, much of it, like James Baker III, admittedly long in the tooth. Instead, he's relying most heavily on the very folks who lied us into two unnecessary and extended wars (and had more planned) and spurred an increase in Pentagon spending of 68 percent. Today they make no apologies for this. Indeed, each in his or her own way recommends doubling-down on the Bush Doctrine and labels previous advice a success.
At the beginning of May, Ari Berman wrote a fine piece for The Nation on the candidate's neoconservative advisers:
Romney is loath to mention Bush on the campaign trail, for obvious reasons, but today they sound like ideological soul mates on foreign policy. Listening to Romney, you’d never know that Bush left office bogged down by two unpopular wars that cost America dearly in blood and treasure. Of Romney’s forty identified foreign policy advisers, more than 70 percent worked for Bush. Many hail from the neoconservative wing of the party, were enthusiastic backers of the Iraq War and are proponents of a US or Israeli attack on Iran. Christopher Preble, a foreign policy expert at the Cato Institute, says, “Romney’s likely to be in the mold of George W. Bush when it comes to foreign policy if he were elected.” On some key issues, like Iran, Romney and his team are to the right of Bush. Romney’s embrace of the neoconservative cause—even if done cynically to woo the right—could turn into a policy nightmare if he becomes president.While there are disagreements among his foreign policy advisers, Romney's public statements reflect the views of the so-called "Bolton faction" more than any other. That's John Bolton, a key Bush era neoconservative, pugnaciously hawkish even by superhawk standards, even though he's not one of the original signers of the mission statement of the neoconservative Project for a New American Century.
But nine of Romney's advisers did sign that statement and/or one of PNAC's several public policy letters. They are Paula Dobriansky, Vin Weber, Daniel Senor, Eliot Cohen, Eric Edelman, John Lehman, Donald Kagan, Robert Kagan and Aaron Friedberg. Their record for getting things wrong and for couching their philosophy in the boilerplate of democracy while never shying away from the term "imperialism" gives us a pretty good idea of where they would take things given the opportunity.
How much influence they would have were Romney somehow to win the November election, or whether any of them, say Bolton, might wind up with a key administrative post can only be speculated upon. But for the moment at least, they clearly have Romney's ear, giving him more of the advice that has cost so many lives—American and others'—and so much money. If Powell would now show some of the courage he lacked in 2003, he could give voters a glimpse of what this crew is really about.