Early on last night, President Obama argued that Mitt Romney's track record on foreign policy exposes him as a candidate unready to lead. "I know you haven't been in a position to actually execute foreign policy," Obama said, "but every time you've offered an opinion, you've been wrong."
As part of a lengthy indictment, the president added: "You've said that first we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan then you said we should. Now you say maybe or it depends, which means not only were you wrong but you were also confusing and sending mixed messages both to our troops and our allies." Romney had no response.
Later in the debate, Romney finally stated his intentions: "[W]e're going to be finished by 2014. And when I'm president, we'll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014." What's wrong with that? It's a perfectly defensible position to have, except for the inconvenient fact that it's not Mitt Romney's position.
As Rachel explained on the air, this was a dramatic reversal for Romney. In July, the Republican candidate said, "I don't think you set hard and fast deadlines." In February, Romney said, "The biggest mistake [Obama] has made in Afghanistan were, one, announcing the specific date we would withdraw." In a GOP primary debate, Romney complained it was "wrong" for the president to "announce the date of our withdrawal."
And yet, as of last night, there was Romney, saying plainly, "[W]e're going to be finished by 2014. And when I'm president, we'll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014."
How does the candidate explain the contradiction? That's the problem; he doesn't.
It's been nothing short of remarkable to watch this unfold in recent months. First, Romney ignored the active and ongoing war, even failing to mention in it his acceptance speech at his own convention. Second, Romney attacked Obama's war policy. And third, Romney embraced Obama's war policy, without giving even the slightest rationale for the reversals.
Indeed, just two weeks ago, Romney's own running mate argued during his debate, "[W]e don't want to broadcast to our enemies 'put a date on your calendar, wait us out, and then come back.'" It's the opposite of what Romney said last night.
This isn't some trivial issue; it's a deadly war -- the longest in American history. The fact that a major-party presidential candidate can't speak intelligently and honestly about the conflict raises character questions, as well as concerns about basic competence.
For the Republican Party to tolerate this is nothing short of shameful.