Romney foreign-policy team loaded with Bush veterans

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GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney Thursday introduced a foreign-policy brain trust that is heavy on veterans of the George W. Bush administration.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff top the list, which also includes author Robert Kagan and former Republican Sens. Jim Talent of Missouri and Norm Coleman of Minnesota. In all, 15 of the 22 members of the group named by the former Massachusetts governor have ties to the Bush administration.

Mr. Romney also announced 13 working groups on key issues and regions that include another 19 names, many of them professors and prominent think-tank researchers.

The announcement comes in advance of a major foreign-policy address Mr. Romney is scheduled to deliver Friday in Charleston, S.C. — a speech that could offer further clues as to how a Romney administration foreign policy might look.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Romney has adopted a fairly conventional Republican perspective, criticizing President Obama for acting too slowly to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions and for throwing Israel “under the bus” in its dealings with the Palestinians.

But he also has offered only tepid support for the war in Afghanistan, saying in a June debate that one of the lessons of the conflict was that “our troops shouldn’t go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation.” That remark sparked criticism from leading congressional foreign-policy hawks such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, who quipped afterward that “the biggest disaster would be to let Barack Obama become Ronald Reagan and our people become Jimmy Carter.”

Mr. Romney’s list prompted a range of reactions in foreign-policy circles.

Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and a vocal critic of Mr. Bush’s foreign policy, said he was impressed by the experience and relative ideological diversity of the group.

“It’s an impressive array of talent that really covers the field,” he said. “I may disagree with their views, but this is the kind of arrangement you want to have. There’s going to be creative tension, some tugs of war, and that’s healthy.”

Not all were equally impressed.

“There are some good people on this list and some crappy people,” said one prominent conservative foreign-policy observer, who declined to be quoted by name. “It’s like they stood on a street corner and screamed, ‘Who doesn’t have a job?’ “

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About the Author

Ben Birnbaum

Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.

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