Reno, Nevada: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama on Tuesday of weakness in the face of US adversaries and promised he would be firm against Iran and China as he prepares to head overseas to boost his foreign policy credentials.
The former Massachusetts governor visits Britain, Israel and Poland this week to try to disprove Democratic accusations that he is inexperienced abroad.
As US presidential candidates often do, Romney vowed to maintain America’s leading role in the world. But his comments were among the most direct yet in his criticism of Obama’s handling of Washington’s allies and foes.
“This is very simple: If you don’t want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president,” Romney told a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “You have that president today.”
Speaking in an animated way, the Republican blamed his November 6 election rival for a cooling of relations with Israel and for “shabby treatment” of the key US ally in the Mideast.
Although US voters remain focused on the economy, international issues like the war in Afghanistan, the conflict in Syria and the growing influence of China make for a critical backdrop in the campaign for the November 6 election.
Romney promised a hard line against Iran to prevent it from producing a nuclear weapon and said, “There must be a full suspension of any enrichment, whatsoever, period.”
“It is a mistake — and sometimes a tragic one — to think that firmness in American foreign policy can bring only tension and conflict,” Romney said.
Obama’s campaign dismissed Romney’s coming foreign trip, including a visit to the Olympic Games in London, as lacking in substance, underscoring the Democrats’ effort to depict him as a foreign policy lightweight.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that according to Romney’s schedule he is going overseas “to do some fund-raising and he has some photo-ops”.
“These several days are not going to help him jump over that bar and convince the American people he wants to have a serious conversation about foreign policy,” she said.
Romney pledged to take a tough line against China and Russia, and blamed the White House for national security leaks to the media about the raid that killed Al Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden and cyber-warfare against Iran.
“What kind of White House would reveal classified material for political gain?” Romney said. “I’ll tell you right now: Mine won’t.”
Attorney General Eric Holder appointed two chief federal prosecutors last month to spearhead an investigation into suspected leaks of classified information amid allegations the White House made the disclosures to boost Obama’s re-election chances.
“This conduct is contemptible,” Romney said. “It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation, with explanation and consequence,” Romney said.