The Election 2012 Weekly Report: Enter Ryan

The Life of Ryan Last Saturday, Mitt Romney ended weeks of speculation by naming Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. With Ryan, Romney gets a potential VP who is popular with the GOP base and is seen as a leader on fiscal issues. He does not, however, get an awful lot of foreign-policy ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Life of Ryan

Last Saturday, Mitt Romney ended weeks of speculation by naming Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. With Ryan, Romney gets a potential VP who is popular with the GOP base and is seen as a leader on fiscal issues. He does not, however, get an awful lot of foreign-policy experience, which could be an indication that this isn't going to be a major focus of the campaign going forward.

Ryan is known staunch free-trader, having worked on the Middle East Free Trade Agreement, and has even bucked GOP orthodoxy by suggesting that the embargo on Cuba by eased. Most of what we know about Ryan's foreign-policy views comes from a June 2, 2011 speech at the Alexander Hamilton Society in which he strongly supported promoting democracy in the Middle East and argued that the United States "should seek to increase China's investment in the international system."

The Life of Ryan

Last Saturday, Mitt Romney ended weeks of speculation by naming Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. With Ryan, Romney gets a potential VP who is popular with the GOP base and is seen as a leader on fiscal issues. He does not, however, get an awful lot of foreign-policy experience, which could be an indication that this isn’t going to be a major focus of the campaign going forward.

Ryan is known staunch free-trader, having worked on the Middle East Free Trade Agreement, and has even bucked GOP orthodoxy by suggesting that the embargo on Cuba by eased. Most of what we know about Ryan’s foreign-policy views comes from a June 2, 2011 speech at the Alexander Hamilton Society in which he strongly supported promoting democracy in the Middle East and argued that the United States "should seek to increase China’s investment in the international system."

Ryan’s "Path to Prosperity" budget plan would boost military spending while cutting the budget of the State Department and USAID.

Prominent Romney campaign advisor and Middle East specialist Dan Senor has been named as Ryan’s senior advisor.

Going to the mat over China

Ryan wasted no time attacking Obama on trade policy, accusing President Barack Obama of weakness on Chinese trade practices in a speech in Ohio on Aug. 16.  "Free trade is a powerful tool for peace and prosperity, but our trading partners need to play by the rules," Ryan said, according to Buzzfeed’s Zeke Miller.  "This challenge focuses on China. They steal our intellectual property rights, they block access to their markets, they manipulate their currency. President Obama said he would stop these practices. He said he’d go to the mat with China, instead they are treating him like a doormat."

Convention line-up

Many of the shortlisted names passed over for the VP slot will get a chance at the national spotlight at the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay at the end of August, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who will give the keynote, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio — an emerging GOP leader on foreign policy — who will introduce Romney. Other rising stars including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell are also slated to speak, along with party veterans such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Sen. John McCain.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former President George W. Bush are not scheduled to speak.

Spec Ops or swift boat?

A group of U.S. Special Operations veterans calling themselves the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund has released an ad this week criticizing Obama for taking undue credit for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and leaking compromising information to the press. Wired reports that the ad was viewed 226,000 times on YouTube on its first day and will air on television in key battleground states. The donors that are funding the effort have not been revealed.

The Obama campaign hit back, comparing the group to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the notorious organization that attacked John Kerry‘s Vietnam War record in 2004. "The Republicans are resorting to ‘Swift Boat’ tactics because when it comes to foreign policy and national security, Mitt Romney has offered nothing but reckless rhetoric," campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told Reuters.

Immigration reform comes into effect

The immigration reform measure announced by Obama in June, under which the federal government will stop deporting illegal immigrants who arrived in the country as childrenand are enrolled in school or the military, came into effect this week. Long lines formed outside immigration offices throughout the country as immigrants sought to enroll in the program. The reform is similar to the DREAM Act, a more formal and controversial program that is supported by the Obama administration but has little prospect of passing through congress. Immigration opponents have accused the president of pushing through the reform in order to pander to Hispanic votes.

Immigration is emerging as a major issue in statewide races as well, particularly in a closely contested Republican Senate primary in Arizona, where businessman and Tea Party activist Wil Cardon has been hammering Rep. Jeff Flake over his past support for immigration reform. 

More scrutiny for Adelson

Real estate mogul Sheldon Adelson, who almost single-handedly bankrolled Newt Gingrich‘s presidential run and is now one of Romney’s major backers, has continued to generate controversy over his business dealings in Macau. The New York Times reported this week that one of Adelson’s Chinese representatives, Yang Saixin, is the subject of a federal investigation into the bribery of Chinese officials. Adelson is also currently suing the National Jewish Democratic Council for defamation over an online petition that quoted news accounts alleging that he had approved of prostitution at his Macau casinos. The petition has been removed, but the group has not apologized for its contents.

The Romney campaign doesn’t seem to be making any effort to distance itself from the controversial Adelson, who has pledged $100 million to defeat Obama. On Tuesday, Ryan met with Adelson at fundraising event in Las Vegas. 

The latest from FP:

On the Shadow Government blog, Peter Feaver says it takes some chutzpah for Obama supporters to question Romney’s foreign-policy qualifications (given how green Obama himself was in 2008) and looks at the foreign-policy implications of Ryan’s fiscal views. Paul Bonicelli assesses what we’ve learned so far about how the two view national security.

Michael Cohen asks what ever happened to the long legacy of Republican foreign-policy expertise.

Obama campaign advisor Colin Kahl defends the president’s record on the Middle East.

Ty McCormick is not impressed with Ryan’s vision for Middle East trade.

And Joshua E. Keating takes a look at some of the world’s most controversial VPs.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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