11.22.11

Michael Tomasky: The GOP Is Clueless on Foreign Policy

Republicans have long taken foreign policy seriously, but Tuesday night the party showed it no longer knows what it believes on the topic, says Michael Tomasky. Plus, Howard Kurtz and more columnists weigh in.

Newt Gingrich did well, yes, but the winner of this debate was...Barack Obama. There were loads of shots at him, notably from Rick Perry and sometimes from Michele Bachmann, with a couple from Jon Hunstman, who has to distance himself from Obama for obvious reasons. But I counted roughly zero really serious criticisms of Obama that might resonate beyond the choir bench.

Even Bachmann proved a voice of moderation. How's that for a sentence we never thought we'd see? But her response on Pakistan was entirely reasonable, and really not different at all from the current administration's policy. On the question of whether the United States should stand with or even help Israel if it were to bomb Iran to eliminate its nuclear capability, we saw the obligatory denunciations of the administration for weakness, etc., but when it came time to get specific, very few of the candidates really committed to a belligerent right-wing posture. Gingrich even basically said between the lines that he really thinks bombing Iran is a bad idea. And speaking of Gingrich, there was his soft line on immigration, which really might cost him.

Overall, this is a party that doesn't really know what it believes on foreign policy. And not just any party—the Republican Party! That indicates to me that the nominee had better hope that foreign policy isn't important to voters11 months from now.