Any resemblance between the Mitt Romney of recent weeks and the Romney of the primary season isn’t coincidental; it’s an oversight on the part of his managers, who have proven more adept at Etch a Sketching away the Romney of spring than many imagined was possible.
The Romney who showed up for the third presidential debate Monday night was, by design, the challenger as milquetoast. With both candidates fighting hard for women’s votes, Romney was determined to avoid anything remotely bellicose in his approach to foreign affairs and his interactions with President Obama. He extolled Wilsonian ends — championing democracy in the Middle East rather than sticking with pro-American tyrants — while eschewing interventionist means that could put Americans in harm’s way. This was a necessary reassurance to war-weary voters who feared that a Romney presidency would mark a reversion to the Republican interventionist norm, to the avid and unnecessary war-making of George W. Bush and the knee-jerk bellicosity of the last GOP presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain.
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