Yesterday, Newt Gingrich all but conceded the presidential race to Mitt Romney. In an interview, the one-time front-runner acknowledged that the former Massachusetts governor was the running away favorite to snag the GOP nomination. The former speaker of the House effectively said he would be going only through the motions of a campaign from here on.
Ever since Super Tuesday, when it started to become clear that Rick Santorum, not Mr. Gingrich, would be the non-Romney breakaway candidate, the smart money has been that the former Pennsylvania senator would be the beneficiary of a Gingrich collapse. Maybe it was true then, but it isn’t true now.
With Mr. Romney picking up in the last primary round Tea Party supporters and other groups he had previously had trouble attracting, Mr. Santorum is almost certain to be disappointed by the fall out of the Gingrich limited, modified withdrawal. As he is said to have remarked on the Huckabee radio show yesterday, Governor Romney is likely to pick up Gingrich’s delegates at August’s Republican National Convention in Tampa. The same goes for much of Gingrich’s popular vote from here on in.
One reason for Romney’s steady advance may be that, whatever else one thinks of him, it is becoming evident that he will bring remarkable foreign policy preparation to the presidency – preparation particularly appropriate for the challenges ahead.
It is clear now that President Obama came to office with no knowledge of foreign leaders, no understanding of foreign policy, no thoughts about our place in the world beyond clichés he had picked up in the more leftward quarters of his political party.
So in the early years of his terms, he appeared to go out of his way to snub British and Israeli allies, even as he tried to court anyone who stood as an American adversary – Iran and Russia most notably.
Except for Russia, the last few months have been a walk back from all that. He has talked tough about Iran while taking the British prime minister to a basketball game and pledging to American supporters of Israel that he had the Jewish state’s back. But all of this has been transparently political, most likely triggered by polling. A president can run a clueless diplomacy for only so long before voters catch on.
Meanwhile, on Sunday The New York Times reported that Mitt Romney and Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu have been close friends since their days at the Boston Consulting Group, the first post-graduate-school job for both of them. And, as I noted in a column late last year, on a trip to London at that time, I spoke to a number of people close to the British government – parliamentary staff and the like – who told me of the success of Romney’s visit to the UK several months earlier. Apparently he deeply impressed Prime Minister David Cameron and his colleagues not just with his grasp of world affairs but with how intently he listened and how intelligently he questioned them.
Is it too much to say that on his first day in office Mr. Romney will be better equipped to the international challenges facing the United States in the decade to come than Mr. Obama is after four years in office?
One of the more tiresome recurring themes of the American left is America’s decline. At one time (hard to believe now) our star was setting thanks to the rise of the Soviet Sun. Then the rising sun was Japan’s, until it wasn’t. Now the newly ascendant sun is said to be China’s.
In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, foreign policy scholar Walter Russell Mead debunked the current version of the myth while offering an apt alternative. “The United States isn’t in decline,” he wrote, “but it is in the midst of rebalancing.” The global economic centers from the 1970s until recently were Europe, Japan and the U.S. Now, thanks in part to the stagnation of Europe and Japan over the last two decades, we are entering a seven way world. We remain the greatest and most dynamic power. But China, India, Brazil and Turkey are taking their places next to Europe and Japan.
The greatest challenge for American foreign policy in the next presidential term will be how to shape that emerging world order. Ideally, we will not move to international norms in which countries vie to become winners by making others losers. Taking such a road would be a dead end for everyone, the 1930s redux. Far better would be a world in which the economic and political arrangements open the doors for entrepreneurial teams everywhere to create products, services and jobs anywhere, collectively producing a fuller and more prosperous life with and for all humanity.
Now let me ask you, is there any question who is better equipped to lead us to such a world – the current president or his likely GOP challenger? If for no other reason – and there are many others – that is why Mitt Romney should be the next president.