Romney campaign pounces on Obama national security comments
September 23rd, 2012
11:26 PM ET
11 years ago

Romney campaign pounces on Obama national security comments

(CNN) – The Romney campaign was quick to pounce on comments made by President Barack Obama in an interview that aired Sunday, calling into question the president’s commitment to Israel as the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East.

In an interview with CBS’ Steve Kroft recorded the day following the deadly attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing four including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Obama was asked if he felt pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to change his policy and a draw line in the sand when it comes to Iran's nuclear program.

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“When it comes to our national security decisions any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people, and I am going to block out any noise that’s out there,” said Obama.

“Now I feel an obligation - not pressure but obligation - to make sure that we’re in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues because it affects them deeply. They’re one of our closest allies in the region and we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence.”

Netanyahu has shown increased impatience over the Obama administration’s lack of clarity on stating more definitive so-called "red lines" that Iran cannot cross if it wants to avoid war over its nuclear ambitions. Obama has not offered any specific threshold in Iran’s nuclear development that would prompt the United States to take action.

The Romney campaign issued a statement Sunday shortly after the segment, which featured interviews with both Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney discussing a variety of topics. The statement claimed the president's comments were evidence of his lack of seriousness toward Israel as a valued ally.

“Tonight on 60 Minutes, President Obama called Israel’s legitimate concern about the impact of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons ‘noise’ and referred to Israel as merely ‘one of our closest allies in the region,’” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

Saul continued in the statement: “This is just the latest evidence of his chronic disregard for the security of our closest ally in the Middle East. Governor Romney's views stand in sharp contrast to the President's. Governor Romney strongly believes that Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East and that support for Israel is essential to extending freedom, peace and democracy throughout the region. As president, Governor Romney will restore and protect the close alliance between our nation and the state of Israel.”

While the Romney campaign statement Sunday said the Republican nominee's views stand in "contrast" with those of Obama, Romney earlier this month conceded a rare comparison between himself and his opponent, saying the two would draw the same "red line" on nuclear weapons in Iran.

"My red line is Iran may not have a nuclear weapon. It is inappropriate for them to have the capacity to terrorize the world," Romney said on September 14 on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"Iran as a nuclear nation is unacceptable to the United States of America," Romney added.

The president has used almost identical language to describe the situation in Iran. When asked if the two would have the same "red line" going forward, Romney said "yes."

"And recognize that when one says that it's unacceptable to the United States of America that that means what it says. You'll take any action necessary to prevent that development, which is Iran becoming nuclear," Romney said.

Romney reiterated in the interview, however, that his policies would have been more effective than those of the president in halting efforts to develop nuclear weapons, namely the implementation of harsh sanctions-measures which the administration and other countries have already begun to enforce.

"I said that crippling sanctions needed to be put in place immediately. This was a long time ago, several - five years ago, I believe. Crippling sanctions such that their economy would be on its knees, at this point," he said.

Obama came under fire earlier in September, however, for allegedly refusing to meet with Netanyahu to discuss a "red line" for Iran’s nuclear program.

Romney said at a campaign event in Florida following the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that as president, "I can't ever imagine if the prime minister of Israel asked to meet with me, I can't imagine ever saying no. They're our friends. They're our closest allies in the Middle East."

The Obama administration pushed back on reports that the White House turned down requests for a meeting from Netanyahu to discuss, in person, threats to Israel by Iran's nuclear program, releasing a statement saying there was no such request and no meeting was denied. Within hours of the story breaking, however, Obama called the Israeli prime minister and said the two countries maintain "close cooperation on Iran and other security issues."

CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Israel • President Obama
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Metteyya Brahmana

    It IS noise – PARTISAN POLITICAL NOISE – when Netanyahu suggests that Iran is going to develop nukes unless they are bombed before November's election. Panetta, who has MUCH MORE CREDIBILITY than Netanyahu or Mossad when it comes to intelligence matters, indicates that we have a year or so AFTER Iran decides to try to use its current nuclear energy program to develop nukes. The implication is clear, that there is some decision point which has NOT been reached yet in Iran after which there is no turning back from developing a nuclear weapon.

    Netanyahu, who is a RIGHT WING Israeli politician, is simply trying to influence US elections to get another right wing warmongering president in the White House like George Bush, as he knows Romney, like Bush W., has no clue when it comes to foreign affairs, and therefore will have to rely on the same Neocon advisers as Bush who rushed us into war with Iraq on a phony Weapons of Mass Destruction excuse.

    September 24, 2012 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  2. Dar

    The only noise that we are hearing is coming from the mouth of the soon to be unemployed president. Blah Blah Blah

    September 24, 2012 04:07 am at 4:07 am |
  3. n

    Romney the chicken hawk is at it again. He would be by far the worst American president in history. Romney would be the weakest, in short, he would be "the powers that be" ideal puppet.

    September 24, 2012 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  4. Wake up People!

    Sit down and shut up Willard. President Obama is our president. Not Netanhanyu (sp) nor you. Neither you nor your old pal tell him what to do.

    September 24, 2012 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  5. Jerubbal

    Romney would outsource American foreign policy to Bibi. No president should allow a foreign leader to dictate America's expenditure of blood and treasure. Though I do believe that we do need to back Israel, I am glad that we have a POTUS that is strong enough to rebuff the warmongering of the Israeli PM. America goes to war on our terms, not on the terms of a nation whose population is less than NYC. Just as Bibi states that we have no right to meddle in their affairs when it comes to Israeli settlements, he has no right to meddle in our affairs when it comes to American blood and treasure.

    September 24, 2012 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
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