Silly season in presidential politics usually doesn’t begin until Labor Day. Stupid actions by candidates (and the reporters who cover them) are typically reserved for a time after seersucker suits and linen pants are tucked away.
But for some reason, silly season is starting early this cycle. It was kicked off last week with Brian Williams’ London interview of Mitt Romney. Sounding more like President Obama’s press secretary than an NBC reporter, Williams asked Romney if he is going to choose “an incredibly boring white guy” as his vice-presidential nominee.
Showing humor he does not often display, Romney replied: “You told me you were not available.”
The initial coverage of the exchange focused on Williams’ biased question and Romney’s uncharacteristically witty retort. However, the coverage of Williams’ characterization of Romney’s short list of VP choices misses an important underlying point: The left is scared of the competence and experience of those on the list.
Case in point: Rob Portman.
Portman, Ohio’s junior senator, is a rock-solid family man with a squeaky-clean public image. Brian Williams and the left might characterize him as boring, but the senator has a broad range of personal and government experience that would serve well in a Romney White House.
Portman grew up working in the family-owned small business that his father built from scratch. (Yes, Mr. President, the Portman family built Portman Equipment.) As a child, he absorbed the boring Midwest values that have driven his career in public service.
Much is being made of the fact that, as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Portman submitted a budget to Congress that would have balanced in five years. However, it is Portman’s foreign policy experience that sets him apart from the others on Romney’s short list.
Until this week’s trip overseas, Romney has run a presidential campaign focused almost entirely on domestic policy. And rightfully so. After four years of President Obama’s leadership, the American economy remains in the tank. Romney should be telling voters every day why he can turn things around.
Yet putting a ticket devoid of foreign policy experience before voters would be politically risky. With the news full of stories of worldwide economic collapse, voters are starting to get the idea that foreign policy matters in this election — especially as it relates to domestic monetary policy.
As the United States trade representative, Portman went toe-to-toe with world leaders on global economic matters. In particular, Portman took China to task on several trade issues. His bare-knuckles approach to the auto-parts case caused China to buckle on various trade negotiations.
And as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Portman has sat across the table from the likes of Hamid Karzai, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.
Romney needs someone on the ticket who has looked foreign leaders in the eye and refused to blink — someone like Rob Portman. His brand of leadership may be boring, but after the “excitement” of the last four years, I’ll take that kind of boring every day of the week.
Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, “Writ of Mandamus,” was named the best suspense/thriller for 2012 and won the Grand Prize at the London Book Festival.