Is Foreign Policy Experience Necessary to be President?


In an interview with Mitt Romney, David Gregory confronted the GOP nominee with this comment about foreign policy experience:

“[President Obama] used some pretty tough words in talking about you, saying you and Paul Ryan are, quote, ‘New to foreign policy. Want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.’ Said you were stuck in a Cold War time warp. Pretty tough stuff and suggesting you’re not ready on day one to be the commander-in-chief.”

If I had been Mitt Romney, as Gregory was making this comment, I would have started to drink some water. When Gregory was finished, I would have burst out laughing and sprayed the water all over him and said, “You’ve got to be kidding! Were you born a comedian, did you get that way in journalism school, or are you on Obama’s payroll?”

How could anyone seriously make such a stupid comparison? When Barack Obama was running for president, he had absolutely no foreign policy experience or governing experience.

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What president ever had much foreign policy experience before becoming president? JFK served in World War II, if that counts as foreign policy experience. Lyndon Johnson didn’t have any experience. Nixon probably had the most since he served as vice-president under Dwight D. Eisenhower who oversaw much of World War II. Gerald Ford got slammed in a debate with Jimmy Carter when he stated that Poland was not under Soviet control.

Jimmy Carter was inexperienced. So was Ronald Reagan. But it was under Reagan that the former Soviet Union began its slide toward collapse without a shot being fired. I’ll take Reagan’s “blustering” any day of the week rather than dropping bombs where we have no business being. It was the foreign policy “experts” who wanted Reagan to be more judicious in his comments about the Soviet Union. They were the same people who wanted Reagan to remove the line “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” from his speech at the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987.

Here’s the important part of the story. Even Reagan’s administration officials wanted him to cut the line from his speech because they believed it to be an “outright affront to the Soviet leadership.” Here’s what Peter Robinson, Reagan’s speech writer, says happened:

[T]he speech was circulated to the State Department and the National Security Council. Both attempted to squelch it. The assistant secretary of state for Eastern European affairs challenged the speech by telephone. A senior member of the National Security Council staff protested the speech in memoranda. The ranking American diplomat in Berlin objected to the speech by cable. The draft was naive, it would raise false hopes. It was clumsy, it was needlessly provocative. State and the NSC submitted their own alternate drafts — my journal records that there were no fewer than seven, including one written by the diplomat in Berlin. In each, the call to tear down the wall was missing.

The Berlin Wall came down, East and West Berlin reunited, and the Soviet Union collapsed. The Eastern Bloc nations regained their sovereignty and borders. So much for the necessity of having foreign policy experience.

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