(CNN) - Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama traded barbs Wednesday over Obama's national security assessment of Venezuela in an interview, with Romney calling the comments "stunning and shocking" and Obama's campaign saying Romney “was only playing into the hands” of that nation’s dictator.
Romney was joined by several prominent Republicans as well as the Republican National Committee, which called Obama "out of touch.” Obama demonstrates "an alarmingly naïve understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face in the Western Hemisphere," Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said in a statement.
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Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt responded early Wednesday evening, saying it is "disturbing that Mitt Romney is trying to score cheap political points by blustering and misrepresenting the President's record while failing to outline any coherent foreign policy strategy."
The president told a local Miami television station on Tuesday that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has had little impact on the U.S. of late but the South American country requires continued attention particularly when it comes to Iranian influence.
"We're always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe," Obama told Miami's WJAN. "But overall my sense is that what Mr. Chávez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us.
"We have to be vigilant," he continued. "My main concern when it comes to Venezuela is having the Venezuelan people have a voice in their affairs, and that you end up ultimately having fair and free elections, which we don't always see."
Latino voters, who are particularly concerned about Chavez's rule of Venezuela, make up a voting bloc seen as crucial this year.
Venezuela has supplied the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with several shipments of diesel fuel at a time when the U.S. and other nations are imposing sanctions on the country as the government continues a deadly crackdown on the uprising against his regime.
In January, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad toured several Latin American countries and met with Chavez, who said his country and Iran would work together against the "imperial insanity" of the United States, which he called a "threat for the world."
Romney's statement was sharply critical of Obama - blasting him for a continued "pattern of weakness in his foreign policy," but offered no specifics about what he would do differently from Obama.
"As president, I will speak clearly and resolutely on the challenges we face so that both our allies and our adversaries will know where we stand," Romney said.
His criticism of Obama argued it was "disturbing to see him downplaying the threat posed to U.S. interests by a regime that openly wishes us ill."
"Hugo Chavez has provided safe haven to drug kingpins, encouraged regional terrorist organizations that threaten our allies like Colombia, has strengthened military ties with Iran and helped it evade sanctions, and has allowed a Hezbollah presence within his country's borders," Romney said. "And he is seeking to lead – together with the Castros – a destabilizing, anti-democratic, and anti-American 'Bolivarian Revolution' across Latin America."
His campaign also bolstered the critical paper statement from Romney with similarly harsh statements from Romney campaign surrogates, including Rep. Connie Mack of Florida and former Gov. John Sununu.
Obama's campaign spokesman responded with a statement which said Romney "is only playing into the hands of Chavez by acting like he's ten feet tall."
"It's baffling that Mitt Romney is so scared of a leader like Chavez whose power is fading, while Romney continues to remain silent about how to confront al-Qaeda or how to bring our troops home from Afghanistan," LaBolt said in a statement. "People like Hugo Chavez want attention – and that's exactly what Mitt Romney and his supporters gave him today."
LaBolt added that the U.S. "is much stronger today than before [Obama] took office" while "Chavez has become increasingly marginalized and his influence has waned."
Romney has criticized Obama on a range of foreign policy issues - including the handling of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, relations with China and Russia, and the administration's handling of the Arab Spring uprisings.
what a joke Rubio and Romney critical on President Obama's foreign policy ...
I was reading Obama's comment, waiting for the gaffe, and there was none. These GOP "leaders" have gone far past the point of ridiculousness with their criticism. What part of Obama's statement wasn't clear and resolute? If Obama said he had to take a leak, Romney and Reince would accuse him of havign a weak, unamerican, socialist bladder that weakens the security of the US. I really hope people see through these chickenhawks.
OMG!!!! Everyone run around with your hair on fire right now!!!! Obama missed an opportunity for gross hyperbole about national security and for demagoguing muslims!!!! THE END IS NIGH!!!! CALM, RATIONAL, ADULT TALK WILL GET US ALL KILLED!!!!
Romney criticizes Obama over [insert issue of the day/hour here].
What else is new? Romney is going to criticize almost everything.
And then things that he does not criticize he tries to take credit for.
""As president, I will speak clearly and resolutely on the challenges we face so that both our allies and our adversaries will know where we stand," Romney said. "
HAHAHAHAHAHA...sure, Deputy Doublethink...you can't even communicate "clearly and resolutely" with the Amurikan public such that people HERE know where you stand...and we're supposed to believe you could manage that trick with respect to foreign policy? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA Dude must be drinking his hair tonics.
This guy of Romney and Rubio are clucless. What have Venezuela done to hurt us? Nothing. That's a fact. All your saying are speculation. President say we need to be vigilant. That's fine with me. I don't know why to criticize this.
why would obama speak harshly of hugo chavez? chavez is a socialist just like obama. obama has no interest in the rule of law and believes the end jusitifes the means as most leftists do. obama wishes he could go as far as chavez has done in venezuala and take things over. between obama and holder they have come pretty close to doing it.
That's just like NitMitt to criticize without having any actual proposal as to how he would do things differently. BTW, have we heard anything out of Venezuela in the last couple years? It seems to me that it has been pretty quiet. Vigilant without being beligerent, that's how we should be, unlike former presidents, and current candidates.
The lil GOPers, Mittens and Maro the Warrior, know all about foreign policy. They musta googled it. Our foreign policy concerning Vietnam resulted in a 10 year war. Mittens was AWOL, had to go to France for nearly 3 years and slug it out with those mean ole Catholics. Our foreign policy towards Cuba has been one of denial and isolationism. We have let these right wing Cubans in Florida drive this policy for decades since both parties want to win the state in presidential elections. Marco has been AWOL for this war against Cuba, he could have enlisted and gone special forces to be part of covert operations in his beloved island. Most of the ration countries have relations with Cuba, but, no, not the U.S. We have to continue to pander to Cuban-Americans in Fla., thus, continue to punish the Cuba people. We have yet to attempt to enrich what could be an lsland pardise 90 miles off our shores. Venezuela will not listen to the U.S. because of a pathetic track record in countries south of our border, especially Mexico, which we have totally failed as a neighbor.
Romney the chicken hawk of the chicken hawks . . . Period.
I would ask obama one question. Do you barrack obama find your economic views more aligned to mitt romney or hugo chavez? Wait for the crickets.
Romney's statement was sharply critical of Obama – blasting him for a continued "pattern of weakness in his foreign policy," but offered no specifics about what he would do differently from Obama.
Says it all. Willard is the master of throwing up word salad after word salad but saying nothing. He has no ideas. He got Libya wrong. He got OBL in Pakistan wrong, he was wrogn on how to handle the blind Chinese dissident. At some point one would think he'd keep his pie hole shut to avoid all doubt that he's an indiot on foreign affairs.
OBL dead, Ghadafi dead, Al Quaeda targted strikes have decimated their leadership...if that's weakness in foreign policy, we should all be so weak. Willard should join Sarah and keep an eye on the "Soviet Union".
"...but offered no specifics about what he would do differently from Obama". When will he be "specific" and
"speak clearly" to the American people so we will know where HE stands?
The secretive way Romney and his surrogates are running his campaign is "disturbing" and I, for one, am sick
Obama could say the sky was blue, Republicans would release a presser disagreeing with him. It's so stupid and transparent at this point.
This from the vantage point of a bully, coward and ultimately a weakling who has been running a failed campaign for President since 1999. Romney needs to give it a rest. He blows so much hot air, at this point it's no longer clear which end it's coming out of.
Romney attacks because he is afforded the luxury of not having to back up any of his pathetic ramblings.
Just another "whole lotta feathers and not much chicken" diatribe from the Romney camp. Lets move on from the daily rhetoric and start talking constructively and substantively about some real issues like the economy and debt. And do so in a manner that bridges the great political divide in America before your country implodes. If you haven't got a solution to the problem, don't bring up until you do. Another weak performance by Romney.
Romney has criticized Obama on a range of foreign policy issues
And where are the military uniforms in your family hanging Willard?
I wonder if this guy can do ANYTHING without criticizing the president. Excuse me, Willard but try to understand this. Many of us are not willing to give you our sons and daughters for another war in exchange for Swiss bank accounts and car elevators. Of course, while he's beating the drums for war – his five good for nothing sons will be making Spanish speaking commericals and jumping into a nice cool pool at one of their many estates.
The whole country saw last week what you're good at Willard – and that's jet skiiing, nothing more. May I suggest you do that full-time since you are unemployed? In whatever you decide to do, please leave the real issues to the president because he's doing a very good job without your ignorance.
what new? "Romney's statement was sharply critical of Obama – blasting him for a continued "pattern of weakness in his foreign policy," but offered no specifics about what he would do differently from Obama"
if you vote Romoney in – you will be attacked by one of your enemies – right now they will not attack you because billions of people around the world like Obama and your enemies cannot get the support of their people to attack Obama – but if you change him your enemies will paint Ronmoney as the "filthy rich capatalist that is trying to rule the world" and your enemies will be able to turn Ronmoney into a demon image... if you change Obama get ready...!!! brace yourself for Dec 1st 2012
I would think that a President needs to be diplomatic when discussing problematic countries, If Romney was president we would already be at war with Iran. and i guess Venezuela
I'm I missing something. He said we should pay attention to them and that's somehow bad. This game of the president is always wrong is old. Where are your plan nit mitt.
If only Rmoney can stop pretending to understand international diplomacy, he might just look reasonable to voters.
Unlike Rmoney, Obama understands that bombing Iran will only worsen the deficit?
Criticizing Obama's foreign policy without proffering any SPECIFIC alternative PLAN will not help Rmoney.
Just a free advice.
Of course he has no specifics: just his usual, kneejerk reaction to oppose whatever the President does. Its amazing that in 6+ years of running for the office. Romney still has no original thoughts of his own.
If Willard would like to wage war with Iran, the least he could do would be to have his sons join the military and by all means not hide his money overseas so he could put some skin in the game and have his money where his mouth is...
He was a bully in HS and he still is, I am pretty sure we don't need that in a president