Spin Cycle

10.09.12

Tom Friedman: Romney Flips on Foreign Policy

Columnist says he won debate by dropping "extreme" positions

Tom Friedman has a simple rejoinder for Mitt Romney after the Republican candidate ripped President Obama’s foreign policy by declaring that “hope is not a strategy.”

“Attitude is not a strategy, either,” the New York Times columnist tells me in a video interview.

Friedman dismissed Romney’s Monday address as “not a foreign policy document,” but says the former governor has moved to “a different place” on Libya, Afghanistan and Israel. He says, for instance, that Romney has moved to “safer ground” by backing a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians rather than “doing whatever Bibi Netanyahu wants.”

The three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and the coauthor of the book That Used To Be Us describes the GOP approach this way: “Democrats are wimps. Republicans are tough. Obama’s been a wimp. I will be tougher…It’s a real stretch.” He says foreign policy has been a back-burner question in this campaign, even though “Republicans are used to owning this issue,” because “mainstream Americans are basically satisfied” with Obama’s stewardship.

Video screenshot

Howie Kurtz interviews Tom Friedman.

Friedman was hardly satisfied with the president’s debate performance, saying it fed “a very dangerous mood” in the country: “Barack Obama, nice guy, so glad we elected the first African-American, got a lovely family—but I think I just want to try something new.”

Romney was successful in Denver, says Friedman, because he shifted from “extreme” positions and “presented himself as a bipartisan unifier.” Friedman disagrees with my argument that most of the media have not focused on Romney’s shifts but says “a lot of people are asking, ‘Why didn’t Barack Obama point it out?’ It’s his job first and foremost.”

Friedman is an avid golfer who has played with Obama. I asked if he’d be open to playing with Romney. Given what he’s written, Friedman says, “I don’t see Romney calling me for coffee, let alone any sporting enterprise.”

By the way, Friedman told me when we finished that he doesn't blog or tweet for a reason. With his every word scrutinized, he says, he prefers to speak through his columns and books.