Fairfax, Virginia (CNN) - Mitt Romney continued to portray President Obama as weak on foreign policy Thursday, though he did not repeat his harshest, direct criticisms from a day earlier during his first public event since four Americans were slain in Libya.
After expressing sympathy for the families of U.S. citizens killed in the Benghazi attacks, the GOP presidential candidate leveled an attack without mentioning the president's name.
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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 told an audience gathered in a Fairfax, Virginia park.
At a press conference Wednesday, Romney accused Obama of sending "mixed messages" on U.S. policy and tied the president to a statement released a day earlier by the U.S. embassy in Egypt, saying it was "inconsistent with the principles of America."
At his Virginia rally, Romney did not repeat that blistering critique, instead transitioning into a broadside on military policy.
"This president has done something I find very hard to understand. Ever since FDR we've had the capacity to be engaged in two conflicts at once. And he's saying, 'no we're going to cut that back to only one conflict,'" Romney said, hitting Obama again on the congressionally-backed military cuts set to kick in this January.
Romney said as president he would "restore our military commitment."
"The world needs American leadership. The Middle East needs American leadership," he said. "And I intend to be a President that provides the leadership that America respects and will keep us admired throughout the world."
The former Massachusetts governor was momentarily thrown off message when he tried to hold a moment of silence in honor the Americans killed in Libya. A protester shouted: "Why are you politicizing Libya?" as Romney mentioned the deaths.
"What a tragedy to lose such a wonderful, wonderful ah, wonderful people, that have been so wonderful, and appreciate their service for the country," he said as the crowd began to chant "U-S-A" to drown out the protester. "I would offer a moment of silence but one gentleman doesn't want to be silent so we're going to keep on going."