or why I don’t think the Washington Times is not quite right.
1. I’m not at all sure the Iranian Embassy situation did all that much to hurt Carter in the end. Take a look at Carter’s job approval numbers in his last two years. From Spring 1to mid-November of 1979, Carter’s job approval numbers bounced from the high 20s to the low 40s. Carter’s approval ratings then spiked with the hostage crisis for several months before settling back into a range from the low 40s to the low 30s for the rest of the year. It looks to me that it was the economy that “carterized” Carter and that the patriotic public reaction to the hostage crisis hid Carter’s underlying weakness for several months. That doesn’t mean that some kind of triumph in Iran wouldn’t have helped Carter (though that wouldn’t have helped double digit inflation.) It is just that Carter was well on his way to losing by a landslide before the hostage crisis and there is no obvious way that he could have turned that situation around. By comparison, Obama has a 49% Real Clear Politics job approval rating as of today.
2. I think there is a technocratic case to be made against the Obama administration’s handling of the period preceding the events in Libya. That case could be made strongly, but it also needs to be made carefully. It wouldn’t be smart for Romney to try to play an exaggeration of Reagan (who actually spent much of the 1980 campaign explaining that he was a basically peaceful guy who was willing to stand up for America) to Obama’s wimpy Carter. Citing the drone bombing program and the killing of Bin Laden won’t help Obama talk his way out of high unemployment, slow growth, and declining median income. But if Romney tries to paint Obama as a wimpy apologizer, then Obama can come back that he ordered the killing Obama and the only hit Romney ever put out was to lay off employees. It isn’t fair but, the response writes itself. Romney’s foreign policy challenge is to make himself seem like a reasonable, stable, informed guy who won’t get us in trouble. That is a tough enough trick as Ross Douthat pointed out today. If Romney comes at Obama with some tough guy, unlike-you-I-won’t-go-on-apology-tours stuff, then he is begging Obama to hit him with a rhyme silencer.
3. Romney actually has a much stronger case to make against Obama on Obama’s Medicare record and current Medicare proposal, and even on abortion. Romney was actually doing pretty good when the debate was focused on Medicare policy. Then it all turned into how the economy is lousy and how much Romney loves his immediate family. Romney just isn’t willing to make the case.