With President Barack Obama attacking Mitt Romney's positions and lack of experience, Mr. Romney's address Tuesday to the National Guard Association was a good time to detail some of his views.
Mr. Romney declined to discuss "the differences between my and my opponent's plans for our military and for our national security," but he sketched a vision of an "American century" and said our troops "deserve the resources and resolute leadership they need to complete that mission and ... a country that will provide for their needs when they come home."
On Afghanistan, Mr. Romney said: "Our goal should be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014." And he closed by recounting a 2006 visit to Iraq and Afghanistan where he and two other governors met with members of the National Guard from their states. Mr. Romney told of offering to call service members' relatives, and of making 63 calls the weekend he returned home.
That was about it.
Unfortunately, this speech was a weak response to criticism that Mr. Romney didn't mention "Afghanistan" in his convention speech. Worse, it suggested Mr. Romney thinks contacting soldiers' families is preparation for being commander in chief.
This was a wasted opportunity when he could have shown some mettle. His policy messages are getting put through the blender. Mr. Romney wants to rise above the fray, which might work if he had a hatchet man, but he has not unleashed Paul Ryan.
What could Mr. Romney say on foreign policy? To begin with, he might quote a Democratic insider: "Judgment will trump experience." That would be David Axelrod in the 2008 campaign. Mr. Romney could do real damage here, arguing that Mr. Obama has shown poor judgment in missing national security briefings, in trying to off-load our Syria policy to the United Nations, in assessing the Russian "reset" a success and in being mute during Iran's Green Revolution.
Mr. Romney could take the president to task for being a rotten steward of a first-rate military and top-notch military intelligence apparatus that could find and kill Osama bin Laden, win in Iraq and complete every mission asked of them in Afghanistan. And Mr. Obama has failed in the most critical foreign policy challenge: foreclosing the potential of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Mr. Romney is not lacking positions on domestic or foreign policy issues. What he is missing is a muscular explanation that conveys where the president went wrong and how he would do things differently. Now is not the time for sweet vignettes; it's time for him to seize the moment.
Jennifer Rubin writes for The Washington Post.