- 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.
In defending Mitt Romney’s national security credentials to BuzzFeed on Tuesday, foreign policy advisor Robert O’Brien cited a rather curious data point — the French Romney picked up while serving as a Mormon missionary in France in the late 1960s:
"The Governor is an extraordinarily well-traveled businessman, he lived overseas as a young man, he speaks French, he understands the world and he’s written extensively about foreign policy and national security," he continued. "The idea that he’s this naive guy at 65 years old, given his experience heading the Olympic Winter Games and everything else, I just don’t think that’s going to play."
Take that Mr. President, with your "passable" Bahasa and middling Spanish! Barack Obama, after all, admitted that he lacked foreign language skills on the campaign trail in 2008, remarking that "it’s embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is merci beaucoup, right?" Wrong. Not if you’re Mitt Romney.
What’s particularly striking about O’Brien’s comment is that Newt Gingrich, who speaks a little French himself, attacked this very trait in the Republican primary, pointing out that Romney spoke French while promoting the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. In the campaign ad below, the narrator observes that "just like [former Democratic presidential nominee] John Kerry, he speaks French too."
Now, it seems, the campaign is turning Romney’s French skills into an asset– a testament to the candidate’s wordliness. Over the weekend, Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan also defended his record on foreign policy — in a line that sounded eerily similar to Dan Quayle’s assertion during the 1988 vice-presidential debate that he had "as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency." Here’s what Ryan had to say:
I have more foreign policy experience coming into this job than President Obama did coming into his….
I’ve been in Congress for 14 years. He was in the Senate for far, far less time that that. I voted — you know, Norah, I voted to send men and women to war. I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve met with our troops to get their perspectives. I’ve been to the funerals. I’ve talked to the widows. I’ve talked to the wives, the moms and dads. That’s something. That matters.
I take this very seriously. I’ve done doing this for 14 years.
So far, the Obama campaign hasn’t borrowed a page from Lloyd Bentsen, Quayle’s challenger in 1988, who famously told the Republican senator, "I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy."
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |
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.| The List |