- By Uri Friedman
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.
Mitt Romney only devoted a little more than 200 words to foreign policy in his convention speech on Thursday evening, and most of the section consisted of familiar refrains from the campaign trail. He promised North American energy independence by 2020, while accusing President Obama of throwing Israel "under the bus," embarking on an "apology tour" around the world after his election, and failing to demonstrate strength in his dealings with Iran and Russia.
"Under my administration," he declared, "our friends will see more loyalty, and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone."
Notably, Romney acknowledged Obama’s role in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and didn’t mention the ongoing war in Afghanistan once — both topics that have hardly been discussed during the convention.
But the most controversial foreign-policy line in Romney’s speech may very well have been when he briefly alluded to climate change. "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans," he noted, pausing skeptically as the crowd jeered. "And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family." The remark elicited an extended standing ovation.
Critics swiftly derided the comment. "That climate change laugh line is going to be in every documentary from the latter half of the 21st century," Matt Novak wrote on Twitter. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted that Romney’s "dismissiveness was appalling."
It’s not entirely clear, however, whether Romney was mocking global warming, Obama’s lofty rhetoric and misguided priorities, or both. Earlier in the speech, Romney had argued that "Hope and Change had a powerful" — but ultimately empty — appeal. "You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him," he observed.
Romney has shifted his position on global warming. In June 2011, he told a town hall that he believed "the world is getting warmer," that "humans contribute to that," and that it was important to "reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases." Several months later at a campaign stop, he argued that "we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet" and the "idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us."
The Republican platform opposes Environmental Protection Agency climate change regulations and criticizes the number of times the word "climate" appears in the Obama administration’s National Security Strategy.
Beyond the debate over climate change, however, Romney’s line speaks to a larger point — one that should be evident to anyone who’s watched the convention these last few days: As the campaign progresses, Romney will do his best to continuously steer the conversation back to his strengths: jobs and the economy.