Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker cites world leaders and foreign affairs experts as the source of his knowledge on several foreign policy issues. But on U.S. policy toward Iran, he frequently mentions his friend Kevin Hermening as crucial to his thinking. Hermening, a resident of Wausau, Wis., was a 20-year-old Marine taken prisoner in Iran in 1979 during the hostage crisis. He now operates a financial consulting firm.
Iran held 52 Americans, including Hermening, in captivity for 444 days. After he attempted to escape, Hermening spent 43 days in solitary confinement. He was the youngest American hostage, finally released after President Ronald Reagan took office.
Walker has been criticized for his lack of education on foreign policy. An article in Foreign Policy magazine recently said "misgivings about Walker's knowledge of the world go far beyond a few badly placed words" and that there is a "growing perception that when it comes to foreign policy, he's an empty chair."
Ford O'Connell, a GOP strategist who worked for the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008, said Walker has recently improved his message on foreign policy but has a long way to go.
"Unfortunately for Scott, what that means is this transformation does not occur overnight, it's really a time-intensive endeavor," O'Connell said. "And a lot of [presidential candidates] — not just Scott — are behind the clock, particularly the governors."
Walker runs the risk of becoming a "Johnny one-note," if he harps on his personal connection to Hermening too much, which could catch up to the governor in upcoming debates, said O'Connell.
O'Connell said Walker should follow Romney's example and study foreign policy for several hours each day to better prepare himself for the rigors of the campaign.