With Mitt Romney's comments on Libya drawing attention today-specifically, his criticism of Obama-it's worth examining whom Romney listens to on such matters.
Dan Senor is one of Romney's closest advisers on foreign policy. Since Paul Ryan has been selected as the GOP's vice presidential candidate, Senor has been traveling with Ryan-but today, he left the trail because of the "foreign policy developments" and is in Boston and NYC.
Senor is the former spokesman for the American government in Iraq (the Coalition Provisional Authority at the beginning of the Iraq war under George W. Bush) and is a particularly close adviser to Romney on the Middle East. (He has traveled with Romney to Israel three times, as well as written a book on Israel that Romney often cites). With Ryan, he consults on domestic and foreign policy issues.
Last month, the New York Times described Senor as an "advocate of neoconservative thinking that has sought to push presidents to the right for years on Middle East policy." Senor led a foreign policy briefing for Ryan on the plane yesterday from Seattle along with Jamie Fly, executive director, Foreign Policy Initiative and Reuel Marc Gerecht from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Romney keeps a large group of foreign-policy advisers, eight of whom participated in the early neoconservative group Project for a New American Century think tank, founded in 1997 and headed by William Kristol, the Nation's Ari Berman reported in May. In the same month, The New York Times' Magazine's David Sanger reported on discontent within that big team, with some complaining that Romney only listens to Bolton.
Romney has long sought to distinguish himself from the president by drawing a contrast between weakness and strength, and his posture is reflected in the team he's chosen, peppered with luminaries from the Bush administration. The "special advisers"-who do not comprise the entire foreign policy team-are listed on Romney's campaign website:
Cofer Black Christopher Burnham Michael Chertoff Eliot Cohen Norm Coleman John Danilovich Paula J. Dobriansky Eric Edelman Michael Hayden Kerry Healey Kim Holmes Robert Joseph Robert Kagan John Lehman Andrew Natsios Meghan O'Sullivan Walid Phares Pierre Prosper Mitchell Reiss Daniel Senor Jim Talent Vin Weber Richard Williamson Dov Zakheim
Michael Hayden served as CIA director under president Bush, who nominated him in 2006. Michael Chertoff served as Bush's second Homeland Security secretary. Jim Talent and Norm Coleman are former Republican senators.
At least one of them presaged Romney's attack line on Libya. Richard Williamson, who served as Bush's special envoy to Sudan and ambassador to the U.N. Security Council, leveled an attack at Obama last night before it was known that Americans had been killed.
"The events in Egypt and Libya show the failure of the Egyptian and Libyan governments to uphold their obligations to keep our diplomatic missions safe and secure and the regard in which the United States is held under President Obama in these two countries," he told Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin. "It's all part of a broader scheme of the president's failure to be an effective leader for U.S. interests in the Middle East."
Michael Falcone contributed to this post.