Shadow Government

An impressive list from the Romney camp

In advance of tomorrow’s Big Speech on foreign policy, the Romney campaign has released a list of 22 special advisors and 13 working groups in the area of foreign policy and national security. Since I am not on the list (though I am happy to see that several Shadow Gov colleagues are), I feel free ...

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In advance of tomorrow’s Big Speech on foreign policy, the Romney campaign has released a list of 22 special advisors and 13 working groups in the area of foreign policy and national security.

Since I am not on the list (though I am happy to see that several Shadow Gov colleagues are), I feel free to comment on the quality. It is very high. This is a classic "ready to govern on Day 1" list. Most of the names have had experience serving in senior positions in the prior administrations, and many have public service records that go back decades. Because so many were Bush-appointees, this list will anger the Bush-haters. But my sense is that reflexive Bush-hatred is on the wane, at least among voters who might plausibly pull the lever for Romney. And, just as importantly, there is real value in signaling that you are ready to handle the national security challenges of a post-9/11 world. It is hard to do that without tapping the bench of people who have experience handling those challenges.

Another feature of this list is that it includes many people who are respected not only inside Republican circles but also, to a certain extent, across the partisan aisle and among reporters specializing in foreign policy and national security. I say "to a certain extent" because the list does not have prominent "Republicans That Democrats Most Love to Love (So Other Republicans Don’t)" but neither does it have many "Republicans That Democrats Most Love to Hate." Instead, Romney’s list is comprised of the types of people who would be quietly consulted by Democratic national security experts and reporters, if only to know what smart people on the other side think about a given policy.

Of course, campaigns are not won or lost through lists like this and this campaign in particular will hinge on other factors. Still, the quality of the list poses an interesting double challenge. First, it challenges President Obama, making it harder for him to argue that Romney is an irresponsible extremist whose views would put the country in jeopardy. I expect Romney’s speech to double-down on that challenge.

Second, it challenges Romney’s most formidable rival for the nomination, Governor Perry, making it all the more imperative for him to establish his own foreign policy credentials. Perry has the distinct disadvantage of entering the campaign late and while his impressive fundraising numbers prove his campaign deserves its first-tier status, his late entry has slowed his effort to assemble the rest of the apparatus of a first-tier campaign. Now Romney has raised the bar just a wee bit higher on him. One reporter asked me, "Who is not on the list that is still available for Perry? I can’t think of anyone." I can think of many good people (for starters, the Shadow Gov roster has many, and we haven’t cornered the market ourselves), so the reporter was wildly exaggerating. But there is no question Perry has his work cut out for him.

Peter D. Feaver is a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, where he directs the Program in American Grand Strategy.

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