Daniel W. Drezner

An open letter to Mitt Romney flacks leaking to Jennifer Rubin [UPDATED]

Dear Neoconservative Foreign Policy Flacks Who Work for Mitt Romney:  Hey there — how’s the campaign going?  Oh, sorry, touchy topic.  So listen… I can see why you’re all pissed off and everything that Robert Zoellick has agreed to act as the foreign policy "transition chief" for the Romney campaign.  Zoellick has never really been ...

Dear Neoconservative Foreign Policy Flacks Who Work for Mitt Romney: 

Hey there — how’s the campaign going?  Oh, sorry, touchy topic

So listen… I can see why you’re all pissed off and everything that Robert Zoellick has agreed to act as the foreign policy "transition chief" for the Romney campaign.  Zoellick has never really been "one of you," and he’s more commonly associated with James Baker than with any neoconservative guru. 

So yeah, I can see why you’d leak your complaints about this to Jennifer Rubin at the Washington PostRubin might have her flaws, but if she’s proven anything this election cycle, it’s that she’s a reliable stenographer for the Mitt Romney campaign. 

Here’s the thing, though — if you’re gonna leak to Rubin, I think you’re also gonna have to do her homework for her.  Rubin has been a bit sloppy as of late in her "Right Turn" posts, trivial stuff like confusing "Third Way" with "Third Wave."  

With the Zoellick post she just cut and pasted wrote up, however, I think she’s gone from trivial mistakes to out-and-out incompetency and/or lying.  Here’s one paragraph: 

For foreign policy hawks, Zoellick is an anathema. As the right hand man in the State Department and Treasury Department of James A, Baker, who was infamous for his anti-Israel stance, Zoellick acquired a reputation as ”soft” on China, weak on pressuring the Soviet Union at the close of the Cold War, opposed to the first Gulf War and unsupportive of the Jewish state. His stint as U.S. Trade Representative, and Deputy Secretary of State, in the George W. Bush administration did nothing too alter his image with foreign policy hardliners. That tenure will no doubt complicate Romney’s efforts to distance himself from his predecessor. And in 2011, Zoellick shocked foreign policy gurus by delivering a speech praising China, suggesting that it was a “responsible stakeholder” in Asia, at a time human rights abuses and aggressive conduct in Asia were bedeviling the Obama administration.

Now there’s a lot of tendentious crap in that paragraph, but the doozy is the embedded link.  Cause if you click on it, you get to a story with the headline: "Robert Zoellick: China ‘Reluctant Stakeholder’ in World Economic Woes".  Here’s the opening few paragraphs:

China is a vital but "reluctant stakeholder" in the current wave of Western financial woes, said Robert B. Zoellick, President of the World Bank.

Zoellick told listeners that China benefits from the international system and needs to "share the responsibilities" of that engagement, for the sake of both sides of the Pacific.

Hey, did you notice a key word difference between what Rubin claims Zoellick said and what Zoellick actually said?  And that the word "responsible" appears nowhere in that story?  And that Zoellick’s statement here is fully consistent with what he told a Chinese audience the next month?  So either Rubin didn’t bother reading the embedded link you provided her, or she didn’t read the embedded link at Zoellick’s Wikipedia entry… or she didn’t care.  Whichever way it went down, it doesn’t look good for either you or Rubin. 

[An aside: Now I know what you’re going to say — Zoellick coined the "responsible stakeholder" language. That’s partially true — he introduced the idea in this 2005 speech. However, if you, like, actually read the speech, you’ll see that he was arguing that, "We need to urge China to become a responsible stakeholder in that system." Zoellick wasn’t saying that China was already responsible, as Rubin suggests in her Wikipedia dump column. He was offering an aspirational goal for the Chinese government.] 

You want to hit Zoellick?  I think you’re wrong, but fine, I get that.  You want to use Rubin to do it?  Then I suggest you write out exactly what she should print, and then double-check your f**king footnotes.  Cause otherwise, the errors and distortions she prints will rebound back onto you. 

All the best! 

Daniel W. Drezner

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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