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January 4th, 2012 2:54 pm
GOP Debates Should Put Foreign Policy Front-and-Center

Quin brings up a fun topic about imagining possible vice presidential nominees, but it’s too early to speculate on who a current candidate should choose because it’s too early to know what each candidate needs in a VP selection.

Ordinarily, Veeps compensate for some perceived deficiency in the top of the ticket.  As a former Defense Secretary and congressman, Dick Cheney was the old Washington pro who could help Texas Governor George W. Bush avoid rookie mistakes.  Ronald Reagan picked the elder George Bush to placate the GOP establishment and unite the party’s money with its grassroots.  Bush later picked Dan Quayle to create a bridge to a younger generation.  Robert Dole and John McCain were grizzled senators who needed a jolt of enthusiasm to energize their campaigns – enter Jack Kemp and Sarah Palin.  In each case, the presidential nominee chose someone who clearly compensated for a perceived deficiency in his electoral popularity.  (Of course, you can judge how well these picks worked out by consulting the relevant year’s election returns.)

Tellingly, none of these Republican presidential nominees except George W. Bush picked a vice president as a surrogate for foreign policy.

So far, campaign 2012 has centered on jobs and the economy, as well it should.  Historically high unemployment and a liberal administration promising more taxes and spending cries out for an articulate defender of limited government and broad-based economic growth.  But domestic politics are only half the equation.  As every President learns, foreign policy is the real distinctive of the job.  It’s very likely that within the next month or two a major foreign policy crisis will remind GOP voters that they need a nominee who gets the free market and understands America’s need to maintain its place in the world as the only remaining superpower.

There are two Republican debates scheduled in New Hampshire before the state’s primary next Tuesday.  At least one should be devoted to foreign policy.  Conservatives – and the country – deserve to know who’s strong on foreign policy, and who needs to compensate with a strong vice presidential pick.

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