By Brent Budowsky - 08/01/12 10:33 PM EDT
Adm. William McRaven, commander of Special Ops, recently offered President Obama high praise for his courage, preparation and decisiveness in ordering the mission that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. Mitt Romney, who has campaigned for the presidency of a nation at war for seven years, said he would not have ordered an attack against bin Laden in Pakistan. Then Romney said he would have.
Voters will choose between a president who has been an exceptionally strong commander in chief and evinced ideally balanced toughness and judgment — and a politician whose history of blunders and gaffes demonstrates a dangerous lack of the decisiveness to command in war when necessary, and the skill to negotiate to avoid war when possible.
So much for seven years of campaigning to prepare. From a candidate, these repeated blunders are gaffes. From a sitting president of a nation at war facing delicate negotiations, these failures would be a national-security disaster.
There is more. First Romney says Russia is our No. 1 foe. Then he retreats again, saying he didn’t really mean that. The politician who could not decide whether to attack the terrorist who struck in September 2001 now cannot decide who our foremost foe is. First Romney declares a trade war against China. Then he says that is not exactly what he meant. First Romney gives warlike military speeches in which he offers no serious policy to execute his “ideas.” Then he retreats from reporters who ask him what he means. Then his press secretary curses at the media. And then apologizes.
Our troops have faced danger and death with courage and valor for more than a decade. Our military families do them proud at home, meeting the challenges with faithful duty and honor. But Romney treats life and death and matters of war and peace with the same pandering flip-flops he applies to gun control, abortion, gay rights, immigration and the healthcare mandate. A politician can hide his tax returns or try to appropriate credit for the president’s auto-recovery success. A president cannot hide from command decisions necessary to prevail in war, or claim possession of the diplomatic skills necessary to end or avoid war.
Democrats have earned their national-security advantage. Presidents Obama and Clinton have met the hard test of command, decisively. Mitt Romney has failed it, repeatedly. Obama is widely trusted to defend the nation. Romney is not. Democrats who tower above Romney in commander-in-chief qualities and credibility include Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Gore and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) joins them, but Romney has even agonized about whether McCain should give a major address at his convention despite a lifetime of valor, honor, service and leadership.
Military families value the nonpartisan work of first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden on their behalf. They treasure the enormous contribution of Holly Petraeus, on the advice of Elizabeth Warren, who champions financial fairness for military families and troops against those who would cheat them. They respect the service of Beau Biden, whom I look forward to supporting for very high office, and who is a powerful voice for younger vets who served with him.
President Obama has a strong commander-in-chief advantage in 2012 because he earned it.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.