Romney campaign pounces on Obama national security comments
September 23rd, 2012
11:26 PM ET
9 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. ajw

    This is the silliest brouhaha ever. The president of the Usa's first priority should be to the Usa. Should we just walk into another war because Israel says so? This one sounds desperate.

    September 23, 2012 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  2. mon

    The noise that President Obama was talking about is the precise nonsense that the Romney campaign is stirring up in situations where foreign policy decisions need thoughtful consideration and not treating these situations lightly to win the day's media cycle. But Romney has never held back from lying before – so why will he hold back now?

    September 23, 2012 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  3. Craig RB

    Does anyone actually take Romney seriously? He put the final nail in his campaign coffin with the 47% comments to his super rich donors. It's over for him & thank God... he'd be a horrible president.

    September 23, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  4. Barbara; IL

    Sorry, Mr. Romney. You're performance on the program guarantees you will not get my or my husband's vote...and we are both registered Republicans, but we will be voting for President Obama. You're demeanor throughout the interview demonstrates your insincerity and lack of vision.

    September 23, 2012 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  5. mon

    Does Romney really care about Israel? Think not. I think all he wants is Sheldon Adelson's millions of dollars

    September 23, 2012 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  6. WB

    Really gives "You're full of mitt" a whole new meaning LOL

    September 24, 2012 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  7. CAWinMD

    Romney is really getting desperate if this is the best he can come up with. We do have other allies in the region - does Romney consign them to the scrapheap just because they aren't Israel? If Israel is such a great ally, why do they spy on us (see Pollard, Jonathan). Israel is important, but it is not the most important relationship the US has. Romney is just showing he's not ready to be the leader of the free world (as if we needed even more reminders of that).

    September 24, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  8. Debwards

    I am glad Romney "Pounced" on it. I am sick of Obama disregarding the one friend we actually have in the Middle East, but jumping at appeasing those that hate us. I want a president that will stand for Peace through might, not weakness through appeasement. Obviously Obama's Middle East Policy is not working.... check your TV for the hate American demonstrations throughout the world. Time for a change.... Romney/Ryan 2012

    September 24, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  9. Tom

    Is Romney advocating preemptive war with Iran? I am so sick of these politicians pushing for war. All they have done is gotten our soldiers killed and drained our wallets. It's never their kids going off to die!

    September 24, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  10. pato

    Us interests come first for me as an american. I agree with the president. The only pressure should becoming from we the people not Benjamin Netanyahu who doesn't even have the full backing of all his security chiefs.

    ROMNEY TRY DOMETHING ELSE THAT WILL STICK! This makes you look weak!

    September 24, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  11. Name terry

    Mitt it doesn't matter what the President says you're gonna pounce on it. In my hood they call that "sloppy seconds". Please come up with an original thought.

    September 24, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  12. Erin

    I just wish Romney would stop running his mouth. He is going to end up pissing someone off with his twisting of words! He's NOT my President and I don't want him speaking for me. Having him run his mouth is making me feel VERY unsafe!

    September 24, 2012 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  13. Emma in Baltimore

    "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. 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."

    He's the President of the U.S. His first obligation IS to the people of the U.S. He says is sees pressure as noise, i.e., things that can cloud or obscure one's judgment (think signal detection in noise). Sounds like his priorities are right. Romney's team needs to stop searching for gotcha's. They almost always make Romney look over-reactive and chaotic - like a loose cannon.

    September 24, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  14. luke,az

    Republicans are flailing, and are becoming desperate.

    September 24, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  15. aaron

    So, the U.S. gives billions in aid to Israel a year, then we're supposed to base our votes on who's going to give the most aid? And, that money is coming from Americans who actually work for a living and pay taxes, not millionaires like Romney who pay little or no taxes but are the first to scream how our tax money should be spent.

    September 24, 2012 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  16. enuff

    And yet Netanyahu doesn't get who exactly is dragging him into American politics. What is Romney going to do FOR Americans? Specifics please!

    September 24, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  17. John Oboho

    A sinking Romney,trying to grab straw,yet still,he will sink in November.

    September 24, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  18. RalphB

    So Romney would outsource the US national security interests in the Middle East to Netanyahu. That's very nice to know and one more reason not to vote for him.

    September 24, 2012 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  19. Thomas

    Romney and Netanyahu were brought together by a new endeavor, The Boston ... Netanyahu in the late '70s worked with Romney, at Boston Consulting Group, both ... Who better than Ron Paul to expose Mitt Romney's CFR membership?

    What dose Romney what , another war ? Have his sons fight it this time !

    September 24, 2012 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  20. Niko_in_Richmond

    Desperation never smelled so bad....Romney has not learned from his other bad shoot-from-the-hip moments. This is why it would be a big mistake to put this man in charge of our government.

    September 24, 2012 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  21. ghost

    not news worthy

    September 24, 2012 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  22. Donkey Party

    Romney thinks that he takes his orders from Netanyahu and Israel, instead of the American people. If you don't see a problem with that, then you shouldn't be permitted to vote, or, you should move to Israel since that's where your loyalty lies. Netanyahu is a far right-wing radical extremist who has never, and will never want peace, so choose your side wisely.

    September 24, 2012 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  23. Max

    Poor Romney

    In desperation, poor Romney seems to be falsing all kinds of mud on the wall, however, NONE is sticking.

    Poor Romney

    September 24, 2012 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  24. helenecha

    Gosh! Good for you, Andrea Saul!

    September 24, 2012 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  25. Marry

    The PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA said exactly the correct things in his statement! He knows of the noises from the GOP and Netanyahu (and many Israelis are upset with them playing with fire too!) and he will not be drawn into this kind of talk just because it is election time!
    For Romney it would be more essential as a few first steps to extending freedom (let woman decide for themselves about healthcare issues), peace (stop lying and get the GOP working properly in Congress and Senate) and democracy (stop trying to buy the election and stop voter suppression) throughout the USA!!! But, Romney just does not understand!
    Registered? Got your voter ID ready? Well, then let’s have some fun in November!!!!

    September 24, 2012 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
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