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Fighting the last war

It's easy to forget, but four years ago, then-Republican presidential nominee John McCain had a foreign policy worldview stuck in the Cold War era. He said a conflict between Russia and Georgia was the first "serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War" -- a label that probably should have been applied to any number of crises, including 9/11 -- and spoke about "Czechoslovakia," despite the fact that the country ceased to exist in 1993.

That was 2008. In 2012, Mitt Romney's campaign appears to be picking up where McCain left off.

The Romney campaign has been accused of being stuck in the 1950s. But it also seems mired in the 1980s -- it again invoked Cold War threats on Thursday, as it tried to attack the Obama administration on foreign policy.

Romney and his surrogates have revealed an ongoing Cold War fixation. Former Reagan Defense Secretary John Lehman and former Bush administration Ambassador Pierre Prosper, on Thursday derailed Romney messaging in a conference call with reporters by raising the specter of the "Soviet Union" and slamming Obama for not protecting Czechoslovakia -- a country that was peacefully dissolved in 1993 and now exists as the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Listen to the audio, and note the way in which both mistakes weren't just verbal slipups, but rather, two Romney surrogates sounding very much like they were reading from talking points.

Also note the way in which the Romney campaign complained about the successful U.S. mission in Libya -- both on diplomatic grounds (which is ridiculous, given the speed with which Obama and Hillary Clinton helped organize an international coalition) and on military grounds (which is nearly as odd).

Also note, just yesterday, in an apparent audition for national office, Romney's pal Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) delivered a speech on foreign policy that mentioned Russia 13 times. How many times did the senator reference Iraq and/or al Qaeda? Literally, not once.

I can appreciate the fact that foreign policy is unlikely to be the deciding factor in the 2008 campaign, but if Romney intends to present voters with a forward-thinking vision on international affairs, he has a long way to go.