What Not to Say About Pakistan

If there’s a lesson to be learned from international crises and the campaign trail, it’s that candidates should do their homework before speaking.

Mike Huckabee got burned earlier this month when it became clear he didn’t know about a new National Intelligence Estimate assessing Iran’s nuclear capabilities. This time, commenting on the assassination of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, he said the U.S. must consider “what impact does it have on whether or not there’s going to be martial law continuing in Pakistan.” Martial law was lifted two weeks ago.

Bill Richardson also botched the test, and he doesn’t have a lack of international experience to blame. Richardson issued a statement calling for President Musharraf to resign. “Until this happens, we should suspend military aid to the Pakistanigovernment,” he said. Richardson has sounded increasingly shrill in recent months, from his blanket insistence on “no residual troops” in Iraq to his transparent attempts at peacemaking during the debates. His Pakistan comments just sound desperate. Naturally, Joe Biden pounced, with a spokesperson calling Richardson’s statement “so wildly irresponsible that it can’t go unchallenged.”

Leave it to Mitt Romney to step in as the voice of reason. Responding to reporters’ questions about whether he has enough foreign policy experience to be president, he said: “Thepresident is not an expert. The president is a leader who guidesAmerica in making the important decisions which must be made to keep ussafe.” True words, although it’s odd to hear such a salient defense of Huckabee’s ignorance come from Romney’s mouth. Even if the two men have their differences, at least they can agree that a president doesn’t have to know all that much.