Hoekstra Endorses Romney


Hoekstra Endorses Romney

Ex-Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) will pick up the endorsement today of Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), the ranking member of the House intelligence committee and its former chairman. Hoekstra will be Romney's campaign adviser on intelligence and will serve as one of his principal tutors on foreign affairs.

Hoekstra's endorsement may boost Romney's credibility among conservatives who worry that he lacks national security experience.

Hoekstra was chairman of the House Intelligence Cmte from '04 until two weeks ago. He is an independent -- though unabashedly conservative -- operator. A few weeks ago, he questioned Pres. Bush's selection of ret. Adm. Michael McConnell to be the Director of National Intelligence, wondering why the White House bypassed qualified civilian intelligence officials. In '05, amid a debate about pre-war intelligence, Hoekstra trumpeted a DIA report noting that hundreds of older (pre-1991) shells containing mustard gas and sarin were found throughout Iraq. Other intelligence officials, the DoD and the White House did not believe the report vindicated pre-war assessments about Iraq's attempts to procure chemical weapons. Hoekstra is a strong advocate for civilian oversight of the intelligence community and has been a vocal supporter of the president's formerly secret wire-tapping policies. He’s generally a hard-liner on Iran.

The unveiling of Hoekstra's endorsement comes one day after Romney, in Israel, urged the UN to impose strict economic sanctions against Iran and indict the president of Iran on charges of genocide.

In the months after 9/11, Romney, then the CEO of the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee, was regularly briefed by intelligence officials on threats to the Olympic games. As Governor, Romney headed an intelligence task force for the National Governors Association, and ex-Homeland Security Sec. Tom Ridge appointed him to a national homeland security advisory committee.

In recent months, Romney's self-directed study of foreign policy and national security has included briefings from current senior intelligence officials and former CIA directors like James Woosley.

Romney's campaign plans to roll out several more House campaign endorsements over the next several weeks. With Hoekstra, Romney has the support of nine members of Congress, including ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Ways and Means ranking member Jim McCrery (R-LA), and Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL). [MARC AMBINDER]