MITT ROMNEY, PANDERING ROBOT…. Under the circumstances, it’s not realistic to think Mitt Romney is going to offer blanket praise for President Obama’s policy in Libya. But the former governor should at least try to be coherent about it.

Last night, Romney chatted with far-right radio host Hugh Hewitt about U.S. intervention, and said plainly, “I support military action in Libya. I support our troops there in the mission they’ve been given.”

But in the next breath, the likely Republican presidential candidate explained his opposition to the administration’s foreign policy:

“I believe that it flows from his fundamental disbelief in American exceptionalism. In the President’s world, all nations have ‘common interests,’ the lines between good and evil are blurred, America’s history merits apology. And without a compass to guide him in our increasingly turbulent world, he’s tentative, indecisive, timid and nuanced.”

Even by Romney’s standards, this is just sad. Greg Sargent noted the criticism “is so canned and riddled with buzzwords designed to pander to the right wing base that it feels like he subjected his language to a dozen Tea Party focus groups before daring to open his mouth.”

Indeed, reading the transcript, one can almost hear Romney running through a checklist in his mind. The subject relates to foreign policy, which means the former governor has to ask himself, “Did I mention ‘exceptionalism’? How about apologizing?”

It’s hackneyed and robotic. Romney talks about foreign policy as if he’s just reading a stream of note cards — after they’ve been shuffled.

Even the buzz words themselves are ridiculous. The president was “indecisive”? Please. As Kevin Drum put it, “When did it suddenly become a personality defect to decline to intervene in a foreign rebellion the instant it broke out?”

Obama is “nuanced”? Yes, but can someone explain why that’s a bad thing? It’s a complex, “turbulent,” and ever-changing world. Having a chief executive who appreciates and is aware of “nuance” strikes me as positive.

Again, Romney is obviously going to say something negative about the president, no matter what the question is, even if he agrees with Obama’s larger decision. But if he wants to be taken seriously, Romney really ought to do better than this cheap pandering.

Update: Greg adds some additional thoughts, including this gem: “Call it the Dingbat Doctrine: If you think the world is a complicated place; if you think that navigating the most powerful military in human history through treacherous and ever-shifting geopolitical cross-currents involves difficult moral choices; if you think America can gain anything at all by recognizing that we have common interests with other nations; well, then you’re too weak to be president.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.