Romney's national-security pick criticized by conservatives

Citing unnamed “foreign-policy hawks, some of whom have consulted with the Romney team,” Rubin also questions Zoellick's willingness to stand up to China, a country he has tried to coax into being a responsible player in an increasingly multipolar economic system.

Zoellick's pick as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's deputy in 2005 was viewed as a sign that the neoconservatives who urged an aggressive foreign policy had lost some of their clout in Bush's second term. Zoellick, however, had signed a 1998 letter to then-President Clinton urging him to remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power.

The criticism could create headaches for Romney, who has sought to paint himself as a better friend of Israel than is President Obama. Romney has also vowed to designate China as a foreign currency manipulator on his first day in office.