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Hayes: Romney vs. Romney

6:08 PM, Jan 5, 2008 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Nashua, NH
Is there a difference between an "arrogant bunker mentality" in diplomacy and an "our way or the highway" attitude in foreign policy?

Mitt Romney thinks so. In late December, two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Mike Huckabee accused the Bush administration of having an "arrogant bunker mentality" in an article published in Foreign Affairs. He wrote: "American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out. The Bush administration's arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad."

Romney demanded that Huckabee apologize and said this:

To accuse the president of an arrogant, bunker mentality is in my view more fitting of a person running for the Democratic Party than from our own. It sounds like something Barack Obama or John Edwards would say, not what you hear from someone running for President as a Republican.

Odd, then, that Mitt Romney--not Barack Obama or John Edwards--said this at a house party in New Hampshire on Saturday.

We have too much of a 'it's our way or the highway' attitude as we go around the world. When you're working with people in other nations, foreign policy is no longer the way it was last century. We got a lot of people really good at foreign policy in the 20th century--which was more like checkerboards, our side versus their side. And we jump them and they jump us back.

He added:

Now it's more like three-dimensional chess. We have to have the capacity to build relationships of very differing nations across a wide array of populations and that capacity I have and will bring with me people of great skill and experience to help advise so I can listen to their perspectives.

I don't have any idea what the checkers/chess stuff means. But it seems clear what's at work here: Huckabee's criticism of Bush did not appear to hurt him in Iowa and Romney is furiously repositioning himself as a change agent/Washington outsider. For a candidate dogged of accusations that he has flip-flopped on important positions and is willing to say anything to win, this won't help.

It will be interesting to see if Romney gets a question about this in the debate tonight or tomorrow.