Romney Makes a Cameo on START

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Unlike other potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney does not approach every potential political target as if he were carrying a machine gun on hair trigger alert.

That has allowed him to stay quiet when fellow Republicans try to outshout each other.  Romney has stuck a few core issues, like the economy and foreign policy. He mostly avoided the health care debate, if only to try and minimize the comparisons Republicans made to his 2006 health care law. On social issues, he's kept mum. If he decides to run for president, it will be in the mold of a conservative pragmatist grounded in American exceptionalism, a topic that has fascinated Romney for years.  Mr. Romney subscribes to the point of view that a strong America is not an America that humbles itself; that Obama's penchant for finding non zero sum opportunities in the post 9-11 world is naive.  Romney is not a native speaker of this language, but he has surrounded himself with advisers who speak nothing else.

When Romney does choose to intervene in the political debate, it is often with great care. His op-ed in this morning's New York Post uses some of his starkest language to date, calling Obama's START treaty with Russia his "worst foreign policy mistake yet."  Does he believe opposition to Senate ratification is a political winner?  As the privately acknowledged "invisible primary" frontrunner, is he attempting to use what leverage he has to make sure that his party does not capitulate on this issue, depriving him of the chance to draw a clear contrast with Obama?  Or does he see this as an opportunity to burnish his foreign policy chops ahead of 2012? (I'll have a post later that goes into the substance of his op-ed.)

In 2008, Mr. Romney's principal adviser on foreign policy was Mitchell Reiss, formerly the director of policy planning at the State Department under Colin Powell. Reiss is now president of Washington College in Maryland, and no longer advises Romney.  As with most candidate op-eds, it is clear that Mr. Romney had help with his -- has he ever before uttered the phrase "rail-mobile ICBMS?"

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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