Foreign policy dominates campaign for second day
September 13th, 2012
12:28 PM ET
6 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. Sniffit

    "What is he doing to prevent more of our embassies and consolates from being attacked and U.S. citizens killed?"

    Yes, he should broadcast the details of the security measures...maybe send planes on fly-bys over remote Afghanistan to drop leaflets detailing embassy security measures?

    September 13, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  2. The Real Tom Paine


    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!)
    Romney has had over 5 years to build an image for himself: too bad that the truth about that image is more than the Mormon Aristocrat can bear. He's failed, and you have to accept that a lightweight with nice hair is NOT POTUS material. Frankly, you don't have anyone who understands what this country is really about,

    September 13, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  3. Kenny K


    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.
    President Obama is doing the same thing he was doing when Osama was killed; handling multiple tasks at the same time. If you pay attention to news you will notice that war ships and military men have been deployed to the region.

    September 13, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  4. truth hurts

    obama and the democrats are going to bury the facts of what happened to these murdered Americans and why it happened just like he is concealing and hiding the facts of the fast and furious fiasco. there was no reason for these people to have died if competent people were doing their job. our ambassador never should have even been at that consulate with essentially no security on the anniversary of 9/11.

    September 13, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Really? wrote:

    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 .
    Better or Worse?

    2009 – Job loss was at -750,000/month.
    2012 – Job gains are over 100,000/month

    2009 – Dow Jones had just climbed back over 7000.
    2012 – Dow Jones is over 13,000 and hit a 6 year high this week.

    2009 – The Great Recession pushes unemployment over 10%
    2012 – Unemployement is two full percentage points lower.

    2008 – A gallon of gas cost over $4 per gallon.
    2009 – Drop in demand reduced the price to well under $2 per gallon.
    2012 – Strengthening economy increases demand and gas is approaching $4 per gallon.

    I've wasted enought time. Have a nice day.

    September 13, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  6. Jack Fancher

    I am pro-Obama, but whether you are a Democrat or Republican, Romney did wrong–in saying we are weak-would he have done any better-like the President said it was shoot first ask questions later-the adminstration very quickly condemned the violence-Romney would send in the 102nd Airborne-dumb in foreign policy and dumb in his response

    September 13, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  7. OnceGreatNation

    The left is the embarrassment to the U.S. and all of the liberal biased, lamestream media outlets in the world wont save OB come November.

    Romney/Ryan 2012

    September 13, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  8. mikle

    Romney is correct. Naive and poor train Obama and his stupid policy create all this.

    September 13, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  9. fryuujin

    if we didn't need oil so much we could ignore the ignorant that run this part of the world. until then I say nuke them. Don't waste one more solider unless it's one of Mitt's sons. That POS wants to talk tough, then let his kid serve front line infantry. Of course this will never happen, draft dodging dad wouldn't let them happen, not after giving them millions.

    September 13, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  10. TY

    Romney........he thinks he can do and say anything ........SHOW US YOUR FED TAXES....... you want to rise taxes on us but don't want to show us yours.......what is wrong with that picture...

    September 13, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. Al-NY,NY

    Flip is unqualified to talk about the economy OR foreign policy. 55%-45% Obama and at least 300 electoral votes

    September 13, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  12. Namejkane sfl a vote for the gop will cut your moms medicare and soc sec .can you afford to pay for them???

    Romney the tax cheat has experience protecting the Massachusetts boarder from those pesky invaders from new Hampshire and the connacaddos from conn !!!!!!

    September 13, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |

    Won't get my vote! This man has no clue.

    September 13, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  14. Randy, San Francisco

    Has Romney and his supporters abandoned patriotism for winning at all costs? What happened to supporting the president in times of crisis? What happened to showing a united front when confronting America's enemies? Romney would rather show a divided America to the world for personal political gain. Romney just flunked the Commander-in-Chief test.

    September 13, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  15. Dave

    Barack wants to fundamentall change America into a junk pile on the democrat plantation. Stop him please.

    September 13, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  16. jtsilver2th

    Oh darn- I was so looking forward to an entertaining campaign season and watching Mitt slowly melt down and he has to go an self destruct already! Worse than Sarah Palin-

    September 13, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  17. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Poor Mitt... Trying to be decisive this time, rather than his usual- "We'll have to get back to you on that..."

    Perhaps next time he'll make sure the gun clears the holster BEFORE pulling the trigger. He'll have a better chance of NOT shooting himself in the foot...

    September 13, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  18. c

    Good enough for health care but not so much when it comes to foreign policy advisors...

    "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me," Romney said at a Monday breakfast in New Hampshire, when talking about health care. "You know, if someone doesn't give me a good service that I need, I want to say, 'I'm going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.'"

    September 13, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  19. Mike from Calgary

    There's NO FOOL LIKE AN OLD FOOL! And the OLD FOOL had it made clear to him by the people of Massachusetts that "WE WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN" (The Who and CSI Miami) when he decided not to seek re-election as Governor.

    But so what if he is a now unelectable fool and the weakest candidate that the Republicans could have ever nominated, YOU HAVE TO ADMIT THAT ROMNEY LOOKS GREAT IN THAT CAYMAN ISLAND TAN, EH!

    September 13, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  20. maf

    Maybe Romney should say that we need a "stronger" America. Playing on the current GOP belief that America isn't strong is already turning off other Republicans and certainly doesn't ring true with many, and I mean MILLIONS, Americans who believe President Obama's foreign policy is spot on and continuing to head in the right direction.
    I agree with Rudy, negative game changer for Romney.

    September 13, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  21. Tiredofthelies

    Obama has made a mess of the US and a mess in the world. Who knew he could reach a low below carter. Obama is so far over his head it's pathetic. The sooner Obama is out of office, the sooner real hope can return!

    September 13, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  22. ghostriter

    The fact that the only people to support Romney's statements are mostly non-politicians says alot. Of course, the conservative talking points released yesterday already told us what would happen. Romney will triple and quadruple down on this and the only response they are to give is that it is never too early to defend our rights.

    September 13, 2012 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  23. AK_steve

    Republicans like war and will anything to start one. War means money. And money is what Republicans are all about. For example, buying elections, deregulation, hiding tax returns...

    War means making bombs which creates jobs and gives investors millions. For the GOP money is equal to Godliness.

    September 13, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC


    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!)
    Absurd? What is so absurd about watching unedited video clips of Romney acting and soundling like he's totally unfit? Oh, oh, oh. As for bring law suits against the media gotta be Mitten me.

    September 13, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  25. john

    First of all, I am truly saddened with how fractured America is today. The rise of radical right wings in the Republican Party clearly contributed to this problem. America needs to be more united, and more amiable to work on sensitive issues like these in the Middle East. There is no need to step on the corpse of our ambassador to attack your enemy (Yes, this is for you, Romney). Republicans also should refrain from blaming and casting America as "weak" just because President Obama did not attack Lybia or Egypt right away after their attacks on our embassies/consulates. Often times, acting smart is much better than acting brashly like what was advocated by Republicans. Let Obama use the drones to target those who are responsible, and bring justice they deserved.

    September 13, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
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