Foreign policy dominates campaign for second day
September 13th, 2012
12:28 PM ET
2 years ago

Foreign policy dominates campaign for second day

Fairfax, Virginia (CNN) – A presidential campaign that has, until recently, focused almost exclusively on the nation's struggling economy entered a second day of forceful foreign policy debate Thursday, with GOP nominee Mitt Romney again criticizing President Barack Obama's strategy in dealing with attacks on U.S. diplomatic posts in Cairo and Benghazi, Libya.

At a rally in a northern Virginia suburb of Washington, Romney offered his condolences for families of American diplomatic workers who died at the American consulate in Benghazi - including Chris Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya - but quickly turned to a barbed critique of how Obama has positioned the United States in the world.

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"As we watch the world today, sometimes it seems that we're at the mercy of events instead of shaping events, and a strong America is essential to shape events," Romney said.

Obama, also campaigning Thursday, did not mention Romney's criticisms, but did issue a warning to the perpetrators of Tuesday's killings.

"I want all of you to know that we are going to bring those who killed our fellow Americans to justice," Obama said to applause at a campaign stop in Colorado. "I want people around the world to hear me, to all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished. It will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world. No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America."

The aggressive stance from Obama was a contrast to the image Romney began painting of the president late Tuesday, when his campaign issued a statement calling the Obama administration's response to an assault on the U.S. embassy in Cairo "disgraceful." That statement came before news broke that America's ambassador to Libya had died in an attack on a consulate in Benghazi.

On Wednesday, Romney continued that approach, saying Obama had "demonstrated a lack of clarity as to a foreign policy."

"I think it is a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values," Romney also said. "That instead when our grounds are being attacked and being breached that the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation. And apology for America's values is never the right course."

In his remarks, Romney again accused the Obama administration of sympathizing with the instigators of the violence in Cairo, citing a statement released by the American embassy there stating it "condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims."

A timeline of events Tuesday suggests Romney was mistaken in that allegation, since the violence came after the first statement was published. A later tweet from the embassy, which was subsequently deleted, indicated the embassy was standing by their original statement and also condemning the protests.

Reaction to Romney's sharply negative tack has been mixed. Obama, along with other Democrats, pushed back, saying Romney was injecting politics during a time of still-developing international crisis. Like Romney, Obama did not mince words about his political opponent.

"Gov. Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later, and as president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that," Obama said during an interview with CBS. "It's important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts and that you've thought through the ramifications before you make them."

Former Ambassador Nick Burns, who served in the administrations of former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, said he was "dismayed" by Romney's choice to inject politics into what he said was a "very difficult situation" for the United States.

"I think it's time for Americans to stand together and I hope Gov. Romney would stand with the administration," Burns said, also on CNN.

Republicans have largely refrained from criticizing their party's nominee, at least publically. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee and the ranking Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wouldn't support or chastise Romney's stance on CNN Thursday morning, saying only that he agreed Obama's policy toward the Middle East was weak.

"Now the tick tock back and forth is something, frankly, I didn't pay attention to," McCain said on "Starting Point."

"I do know this. Americans are outraged when our embassy is attacked and the Egyptian government does not take the proper measures to protect it," McCain continued. "How much that affects our relationship with Egypt, I think, is something we have to carefully calibrate, recognizing how important a role Egypt is in the entire Middle East."

Other conservative voices, including the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, also attempted to shield Romney from critics.

"As Tuesday's events showed, pandering to Islamists who would use the video to inflame anti-American sentiment isn't going to stop the protests," read the editorial, which was published under the headline "Romney Offends the Pundits."

"His political faux pax (sic) was to offend a pundit class that wants to cede the foreign policy debate to Mr. Obama without thinking seriously about the trouble for America that is building in the world," it continued.

This week's deviation to foreign policy comes after more than a year of a near-singular campaign focus on jobs and the economy. The topic re-entered the political discussion following the Republican National Convention at the end of August, when Democrats piled on Romney for not mentioning Afghanistan in his speech accepting the GOP presidential nomination.

Later, during their own convention, Democrats highlighted support for American troops currently in war zones and the president's successful foreign policy actions, including the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. This particular thread was viewed by many as successfully positioning Obama ahead of Romney on an issue that Democrats have traditionally not seen as a strength.

Voters consistently say in polls Obama would better handle America's relationships with other countries if re-elected. In the latest CNN/ORC International survey released earlier this week, Obama had a 54%-42% advantage over Romney on foreign policy.

CNN's Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.

Also see:

– With attacks in Middle East, campaign turns to foreign policy

– Romney's political pretzel over Libya

– Democrats outraged with Romney foreign policy attacks

– Ryan ramps up foreign policy attack on Obama


Filed under: 2012 • Foreign Policy • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (122 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Mitt Romney wanted to introduce a game changer into the mix. I think he's done that. He's also done himself in.

    September 13, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  2. Norm

    Romney and his crew smell trillions in defense contracts .
    Never mind the lives of our soldiers they use to fill their pockets.

    September 13, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. CBR

    Mitt Romney did not have the facts yet he chose to condemn the Obama administration. We do not know who actually planned and carried out that raid which killed Ambassador Stevens. To make such an off-the-cuff remark does not display any qualities needed to be President. Mr. Romney did not help himself with those of us who believe that there are ways to deal with issues without using force. Sometimes diplomacy and tact are the keys to solving issues.

    People lost their lives and the first thing we need to do is find out why this happened after we acknowledge the contributions made by the four people killed and the Libyans killed. Then we can send our condolences and give support to their families. Finally, we get the security and intelligence groups working to find answers. Last, we make statements that may or may not get the total support of the American people. Perhaps the Romney Ego got in the way.

    For those of us from MA this is not a surprising occurrence. Mr. Romney needs to listen to other Party members like John McCain to see just what should be done in a foreign policy crisis. It appears he is listening to the very hawkish Republicans and trying to keep them on his side.

    September 13, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Does it really matter anymore, CNN? Romney proved to what lengths he'll go to become president, including using a very tense Middle East situation, commenting on it long before even HE had any real substance to make a "decision" on, and thus using the deaths of innocent Americans as political fodder against the sitting President of the United States. Having done so, Romney (and Priebus) exacerbated an already dangerous situation WHILE IT WAS HAPPENING.

    This is the real Mitt Romney America has seen over and over again this past year. Nasty. Vindictive. Vicious. Not my idea of a true American, but feel free to allow his lies over this and every one of his campaign talking points to continue. If this is how Romney feels he needs to win, nothing I say can stop him. I said it earlier, and I repeat it now. Mitt Romney and the Republican party go hand in hand ... and they each deserve one another.

    Whether America deserves either the party or the candidate , I'll let the voters decide.

    September 13, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  5. Joan in MS

    Most of this article is a re-hash from yesterday. "Nothing has changed here folks ... keep moving ..."

    Romney was disgusting and misguided yesterday, and he still is today. Nothing but neocon blabber & blustering.

    Bin Laden is Dead ... and GM is Alive!

    May God Bless our troops, embassy staffs, and President, and of course, God Bless America!

    September 13, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  6. sonny chapman

    Economy: Romney=Bush. Foreign Policy: Romney =Bush. Not good Repubs. Your little Darling, George W. will cost you another election cycle.

    September 13, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  7. zp

    Our president was in Las Vegas – campaiging and fundraising, of all things – on the day one of our U.S. Ambassadors was murdered. What is he doing to prevent more of our embassies and consolates from being attacked and U.S. citizens killed? The next stop will be America. The media can't spin this. The events are unfolding and exposed. And they're ugly.

    September 13, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  8. Marry

    R&R are simply an embarrassment to the US! There is nothing they can say or show that makes them in any way, worth to consider them for any top position! Their arrogance, indifference, and ignorance make them extremely dangerous!

    It is so important to get out and VOTE a strait blue ticket in November to end this GOP/TP madness!!!

    President Obama / Democrats Nov 2012!!

    September 13, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  9. Really?

    @Rudy
    Time will tell. In regard to thececonomy and national security: is this country worse or better off since Obama took office? If anyone says better off it can only be that they are not living in reality OR they are on the government handout program .
    Either way, the answer is WORSE and we all are in big trouble if O gets elected again .

    September 13, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  10. Sandy

    Romney has once again shown himself to be a cowardly, manipulative, power-hungry worm-tongue. I am not the least bit surprised, but am horrified nonetheless. Only a complete tool would vote for this pariah.

    September 13, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  11. truth hurts

    romney was dead on accurate in his assessment of this fiasco. obama and his lsm friends are trying to distract from the fact that 4 people are dead because of their incompetence. on the anniversary of 9/11 security at our embassies and consolates was not adequate or heightened. obama and hillary clinton were caught with their pants down and people died because of it. all of this bs smoke and mirrors to shift focus to romney is the usual tactics of these losers.

    September 13, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  12. California Gary

    When you shoot first and aim later, you often find that you have shot yourself in the foot. And Romney's response to shooting himself in the foot is to fire again and shoot the other foot too. He is really becoming a comical, yet sad, character........and yet, there are still people in this country that will vote for him no matter what. Go figure.......

    September 13, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  13. Will

    Typical BS. Obama failed leadership is somehow Romneys fault. The US is no longer viewed as a reliable ally (Israel for one of many) or an enemy to be feared. Tweeting eveidently is Obama's foriegn policy. Then delete the tweet, deny it and then stand behind it and blame Romney – lost yet? Ridiculous.

    September 13, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  14. Malory Archer

    On Tuesday mittens & ruin accused President Obama of using foreign poilcy as a "shiny object" to distract from the real issues. Upon first report of trouble, before anything could even be verified, they started screaming about foreign policy. Hypocrites and totally unfit for office. They should be ashamed of themselves for that remark and for every lie that's left their lips since.

    mittens' remarks are only going to cause his numbers to tank while President Obama's numbers will to contine to rise. How long do you think it's going to take the fat, drug addicted reichwing radio bloviator to start claiming the embassy attacks were arranged by the Obama administration in order to garner sympathy in order to garner four more years? I think it'll take about a week, but I'm probably giving them far too much credit – most likely that cacophony will be in full will be in full chorus by the weekend.

    September 13, 2012 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  15. Really?

    Still clear as ever that the absurd, negative comments about Romney come from ignorance about who Romney really is rather than who the liberal media portrays him as. Seems to me he could sue some media outlets for the false and slanderous portrayal they have given (some of the commenters, also!)

    September 13, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  16. Laverne

    Mitt Romney is anxious for this fight regarding foreign policy because he is losing on that front, but the calculation he is making is dead wrong. If the US end up having to go to war on any level, he can kiss the presidency good-bye. In almost every instance when a war is imminent, Americans stick with the incumbent president because there is no time to bring a new administration up to speed and Americans don't want to risk the chance of our country being at anymore risk than it already is. Mitt Romney sought and he will lose!

    September 13, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. sonny chapman

    "America needs to shape events".-Mitt Romney. "America needs a Muscular Foreign Policy".-Dick Cheney. Both Vietnam War Draft Dodgers.

    September 13, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. ConcernedSNCO

    Mr. Romney is not presidential material. He has shown that time after time. If he is elected, he will be an embarrassment to the United States. For all of the President Obama haters, is this really the person you want replacing him? If so, your mental health should be evaluated.

    September 13, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. Rick 7809

    So Mittens takes issue with the following statement ... that the US "condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." Does that mean that his Mormon faith approves of efforts to degrade other religions? It seems that Mitt can turn his faith on and off depending on what "value" is under discussion.

    September 13, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  20. Credibility

    Can't believe how Romney chose his own political ambition when our country was facing such tragedy.

    Mitt did not have all of the facts and still decided to double-down on lies and misrepresentations. It was sadly a defining moment of irresponsibility and not very presidential.

    September 13, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. Wade

    And still with all the PROOF that Obama is a total failure, LIAR hypocrite and criminal thug there are 50 % of the people in Americas who hate America enough and love the HATE MONGER Obama enough to reelect him. PATHETIC. America deserves to fail.

    September 13, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  22. Eddie The Barber

    This is a continuation of Romney's desparate grab for the presidency – blame Obama for EVERYTHING that happens. Romney is totally incompetent and doesn't have a clue on how to conduct foreign policy. Again – he would be a disaster as our president just as president Cheney and vice president Bush W were before him.

    September 13, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    You going to do any reporting on the Ne York Times' obvious efforts to help Mittens whitewash the overtly political motivations behind his DEMONSTRABLY FALSE attacks regarding the embassy statements? I mean, it couldn't be any more obvious. The NYT posted an article and then took it down and posted a rewrite after scrubbing it of the quotes and portions of quotes from people like Mittens' campaign advisors that made it exrtemely apparent that this was, indeed, a "shoot first, aim later" knee-jerk political maneuver that was based solely on getting out more attack mesasges on Obama. Or will CNN be helping the NYT whitewash not only Mittens' mendacity here but also helping the NYT whitewash its whitewash? Lord knows CNN does enough on a daily basis to prove it is in the same boat with the NYT in terms of desperately trying to keep the USS False Equivalence afloat.

    September 13, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Really?

    "Still clear as ever that the absurd, negative comments about Romney come from ignorance about who Romney really is rather than who the liberal media portrays him as. Seems to me he could sue some media outlets for the false and slanderous portrayal they have given (some of the commenters, also!)"

    Slander you say? Pure rubbish and you know it.

    September 13, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  25. Critical Thinking

    If Romney's or anyone else comments helps this President find his backbone in dealing with radical muslims, then so be it. This President is not only incomplete on domestic issues, he is AWOL, Absent With Out Leadership on foreign issues. This what we get when we elect someone who looks good, sound good but has no experience. Elections have consequences, the last one did and most certainly will the next one. God help this country if we re-elect this President for a second term, god help us.

    September 13, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
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