Praising Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as “bold” has quickly become the most overused meme of the campaign, but there is one especially daring quality to Romney’s pick: together, Romney and Ryan have less foreign policy and national security experience than any national ticket of either party since the 1940s.
Romney’s glaring lack of foreign policy credentials has been well documented throughout the campaign. With no relevant experience of his own to draw on, Romney tends to regurgitate talking points from his neoconservative foreign policy team — which is stacked with veterans of the George W. Bush administration — then try to swiftly change the subject back to jobs.
There is a good reason for this strategy: When the Romney campaign shares extended thoughts on international affairs, it tends to highlight its disturbing lack of knowledge. Indeed, in the midst of Romney’s disastrous overseas trip, even his fellow Republicans acknowledged that Romney’s foreign policy is “strangely amateurish.”
Unlike past presidential candidates like Bush and Barack Obama, who picked vice presidents who burnished their thin diplomatic resumes, Romney instead chose to double down on emptiness.
Despite having worked in Washington for virtually his entire adult life, Ryan has next to no experience in international relations. Ryan has largely avoided the topic throughout his seven terms in the House — preferring to focus his attention on budgetary issues instead — but he has taken a few notable stands.
Ryan’s most high profile foreign policy moment came in a June, 2011 speech to the Alexander Hamilton Society. There he argued in favor of American exceptionalism — hardly drawing a controversial line in the sand — and addressed a few issues of the time in broad terms. With regards to the Middle East, he declared that “We have a responsibility to speak boldly for those whose voices are denied by the jackbooted thugs of the tired tyrants of Syria and Iran,” but declined to elaborate on what should be done. He argued that “Now is the time to lock in the success that is within reach” in Afghanistan and Iraq, but did not explain how to do so.