WASHINGTON, July 24, 2012 — Mitt Romney leveled withering criticism of President Obama’s foreign policy today in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nevada.
Obama had addressed the same group on Monday, emphasizing his foreign policy and military successes. “Four years ago, I stood before you at a time of great challenge for our nation. We were engaged in two wars. … So, four years ago, I made you a promise. I pledged to take the fight to our enemies, and renew our leadership in the world. As president, that’s what I’ve done. … You have my deeds. You have my track record. You have the promises I’ve made and the promises that I’ve kept.”
Romney issued his retort to Obama with words hearkening back to Ronald Reagan’s, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” “Has the American economy recovered,” Romney asked. “Has our ability to shape world events been enhanced, or diminished?” Have we gained greater confidence among our allies and greater respect from our adversaries? … Has the most severe security threat facing America and our friends, a nuclear-armed Iran, become more or less likely?”
Answering his own questions, Romney declared, “The president’s policies have made it harder to recover from the deepest recession in 70 years, exposed the military to cuts that no one can justify, compromised our national security secrets, and in dealings with other nations, given trust where it is not earned, insult where it is not deserved, and apology where it is not due.”
Without naming Obama, Romney accused the Administration of leaking sensitive and classified national security information for political gain. “What kind of White House would reveal classified material for political gain?” This was in reference to leaks about the raid by U.S. special forces that killed Osama bin Laden, and leaks that allowed the New York Times to publish a story about the stuxnet worm that damaged Iranian uranium-enrichment centrifuges. Romney said angrily, “This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation by special counsel, with explanation and consequence.”
The White House has vehemently denied involvement in those leaks, Obama calling the allegations “offensive” in comments in June, but Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.), who chairs the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, said Monday, “I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks.” She emphasized that she does not believe the leaks come from Obama himself, but expressed uncertainty about the White House staff.
Romney declared, “When the issue is the political use of highly sensitive national security information, it is unacceptable to say, ‘we’ll report our findings after election day.’ Exactly who in the White House betrayed these secrets? Did a superior authorize it? These are things that Americans are entitled to know, and they are entitled to know right now. If the president believes, as he said last week, that the buck stops with him, then he owes all Americans a full and prompt accounting of the facts.”
Romney denounced the Obama Administration’s policies in the Middle East, emphasizing with regard to Iran that “A clear line must be drawn. There must be a full suspension of any enrichment, period.” He condemned the Administration’s “shabby” treatment of Israel, and said of Afghanistan, “the route to more war, and to potential attacks here at home, is a politically timed retreat. … I will affirm that my duty is not to my political prospects, but to the security of the nation.”
The thread that wound through Romney’s speech was leadership: Obama’s leadership has been weak, destructive, and politically motivated; Romney’s will be clear and, when necessary, forceful. “If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I am not your president. You have that president today.”
While polls show that voters trust Romney more on the economy than they do Obama, Obama has received high marks for his foreign policy. Romney made clear in his speech today that he will fight Obama on foreign policy grounds, and he laid out the outline of his foreign policy campaign. Whether he can make his case stick, he showed today that he can at make it clearly and passionately.
James Picht is the Senior Editor for Communities Politics and teaches economics at the Louisiana Scholars’ College in Natchitoches, La., where he went to take a break from working in Moscow and Washington. But he fell in love with the town and with the professor of Romance languages, so there he stayed. Now he teaches, annoys his children, and makes jalapeno lemonade. He tweets, hangs out on Facebook, and has a blog he totally neglects at pichtblog.blogspot.com.
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