Moving the goalposts


Jennifer Rubin:

Perry at the VFW

But perhaps in the change of schedule and the rush of the new campaign not much attention was given to the speech. Let’s take a look at what he said:

“I do not believe that America should fall subject to a foreign policy of military adventurism. We should only risk shedding American blood and spending American treasure when our vital interests are threatened and we should always look to build coalitions among the nations to protect the mutual interests of freedom loving people,” Perry told thousands of veterans today.

“It’s not our interest to go it alone. We respect our allies, and we must always seek to engage them in military missions. At the same time, we must be willing to act when it is time to act. We cannot concede the moral authority of our nation to multi-lateral debating societies, and when our interests are threatened American soldiers should be led by American commanders.”

Huh? Let’s take “military adventurism” for starters. Is someone in favor of that, and is he accusing President Obama or former President George W. Bush of such a thing? He doesn’t say. They he says we should shed blood only for “our vital interests.” Is that different from our plain old interests? Really, the issue is how one defines national interests or vital national interests. Does that include Libya? What about Afghanistan? Again, there is no hint at what he means. Then comes a tangle of statements. “Always look to build coalitions” and don’t “go it alone.” But then again, we must be willing to act “when it is time to act.” Got that? Me neither.

I asked Perry spokesman Mark Miner what Perry meant by “military adventurism.” He e-mailed me: “The military adventurism comment in the VFW speech was a statement of the Governor’s philosophy and not intended to be a specific reference to previous or ongoing military operations.” But, you know, what does that mean in Perry’s mind? He responded, “Military adventurism amounts to an aimless foreign policy that involves America in parts of the world where we don’t have vital interests. The Governor is mindful of the sacrifice our soldiers make and that one day, he may be the one to send them into battle. He takes very seriously the decision to do so.” Um, then a “vital national interest” would be something that is not “military adventurism”? If someone has thought seriously about these issues it is not apparent.

Tossing around some catchy phrases without meaning or specificity isn’t very enlightening or comforting. To the contrary, it suggests a “whatever” attitude toward serious policy issues. We certainly have gone through a campaign when the candidate got by on pablum, but that turned out to be a disappointment to conservatives and liberals alike.

Perry and his advisers are drinking from the proverbial fire hose right now. They have to find advance men, fund-raisers, organizers and attend to a million details. But if he is going to dispel the idea that he is light in the policy department he’ll have to, well, show he’s not light in the policy department. That means setting out at least some general foreign policy views, for example, on Iran, the Russian reset, Hugo Chavez, China, Cuba and human rights.

While I generally agree that candidates for president need to lay out their ideas on foreign and domestic policy, we’re still several months away from the Iowa caucuses. Rick Perry is the governor of Texas, a job that doesn’t involve much foreign policy.

He’s been in the campaign less than a month and there will be lots of chances for him to tell voters where he stands on various issues. I can’t help but think of another governor who was bashed for not being a foreign policy expert just weeks after she was elevated to the national stage.

Then again there was another small-state governor who was bashed for his lack of foreign policy expertise. He was running against a guy who had lots of it. His response:

It’s the economy, stupid!

Let me be clear – I am not endorsing nor supporting Rick Perry. He’s no Big Dawg either (who is?) It just annoys me the way the media moves the goalposts depending whether they like a candidate or not.

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8 Responses to Moving the goalposts

  1. Perry may or may not be sincere, but his speech makes sense. “Don’t shed American blood” seems like a pretty good litmus test for which foreign disputes to get involved in, and how much. In Kosovo and Libya, the good guys had a good chance of succeeding, with a reasonable amount of air support from us.

    • Dario says:

      Who is the good guy is not always easy to figure out. Just because we don’t like a leader, it doesn’t mean that anyone who wants to depose him is a good guy.

  2. ralphb says:

    I’m kind of confused. I would have expected Jennifer Rubin to kind of like Perry as a candidate.

  3. Dario says:

    Advisers of foreign policy come from the same barrel, therefore most presidents continue the policies of the prior president with minor tweaks. When Obama talked foreign policy I knew that he was either a liar, an ignoramus, or both.

    It’s rare that a foreign adventure impacts the U.S. in a very negative way. I think of two such cases: Vietnam and Iraq that were negative. The image of the U.S. in the world was damaged by both wars, and both wars were detrimental to our economy because they were expensive and no positive returns. Foreign policy should play a small part in deciding who to vote for.

    Leave my Barack Obama Perry alone!

  4. Mimi says:

    This statement by Perry is a dig at Obama AND Bush. It is reminding Obama 2008 voters that he has done squat in getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan and telling Republicans we do not have the money to spin this out indefinitely. In a way it is a stoke of genius by running to the left of Obama who is going right as hard as his handlers want. It is kind of Nixonian and what people who are sick of endless war want to hear. Another pirouette executed by stupid Perry.

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