Keating: This is not a foreign policy election
So much for David Petraeus. Mitt Romney's choice of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate is a bold choice: Ryan's hardline economic views will excite the Republican base but could alienate moderates and swing voters. But whatever impact the pick has on Romney's campaign, one thing is clear: The GOP ticket is not running on foreign-policy this year. With the exception of a fairly rote 2011 speech at the Alexander Hamilton society and a budget plan that would gut the government's diplomacy and development funding, Ryan has little record on foreign policy issues.
This makes this year's GOP ticket something fairly unprecedented in modern presidential politics: a pair in which neither the VP nor the presidential nominee has any substantial foreign-policy experience on their resume.
Romney's obviously not the first former governor or candidate without significant national security experience to run for president. But generally speaking, his predecessors have picked running mates that compensate for this lack of experience.
Freshman Sen. Barack Obama chose the veteran Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joe Biden. George W. Bush picked Dick Cheney, a former secretary of defense. Bill Clinton's pick, Al Gore, had sat on the House intelligence committee and had been active on arms control issues. Mike Dukakis' running mate, Lloyd Bentsen, had been involved in Latin America policy during the Carter administration. Ronald Reagan chose former ambassador and CIA chief George H.W. Bush. Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter's vice president, had been active on Vietnam and intelligence issues in congress.
New York Gov. Thomas Dewey and California Gov. (later Supreme Court justice) Earl Warren had little foreign policy experience to speak of when they ran in 1948, though both had been involved in wartime planning efforts.
With this pick, Romney seems to be wagering that foreign policy will not be a major issue in the campaign. We'll see if he's right.
Writer Joshua E. Keating is an associate editor at Foreign Policy magazine.