LEXINGTON, Va.—Looking to bolster his foreign policy credentials in the final weeks before Election Day, Mitt Romney will accuse President Barack Obama of "passive leadership" in the Middle East and will link last month's deadly attack on the United States consulate in Libya to a larger critique of what he'll describe as Obama's failed leadership overseas.
"Hope is not a strategy," Romney will argue in a Monday morning address at the Virginia Military Institute, according to excerpts released by his campaign.
Romney will use his speech to double down on his criticism of the Obama administration's response on the attack in Libya, which claimed the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens. The Romney team is hoping to capitalize on what they believe is the Obama administration's misstep in pointing to an anti-Islamic video as the trigger for last month's attack as well as criticism over whether the attack could have been stopped in the first place by beefing up security at its overseas outpost.
"The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts. They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East--a region that is now in the midst of the most profound upheaval in a century. And the fault lines of this struggle can be seen clearly in Benghazi itself," Romney will say, according to his campaign.
He will argue the attack in Benghazi was "likely the work of the same forces that attacked our homeland" during the 9/11 attacks 11 years ago.
"This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the administration's attempts to convince us of that for so long," Romney will say. "No, as the administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West."
Romney will also use the speech to offer new details on his overseas approach. Among other things, he is expected to call for more direct intervention in Syria, arguing that anti-government forces should have weapons. He will also call for the U.S. to be tougher on Iran, saying that if he's elected president he will "not hesitate to impose new sanctions" on the country to stop the country from acquiring nuclear capabilities.
The speech comes as Romney tries again to gain advantage over what he has repeatedly described as Obama's "weak" and "naïve" foreign policy approach. But it also comes as Romney tries to clean up his own perceived foreign policy missteps, including his own widely criticized response to the attacks in Libya, in which he accused Obama of sympathizing with those who had launched the attacks there on and on diplomatic missions overseas.
Romney is also still trying to undo damage from an overseas trip he took in July that was largely overshadowed by his suggestion that London hadn't done enough to prepare for the Summer Olympics and by a swipe at Palestinians, whom he suggestion hadn't moved ahead economically because of their culture.
On Sunday, the Obama campaign used the trip to preemptively attack Romney's speech.
"We're not going to be lectured by someone who has been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy every time he's dipped his toe in the foreign policy waters," spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama launched a West Coast fundraising swing.
'The only person who has offended Europe more is probably Chevy Chase," Psaki added in an apparent nod to "National Lampoon's European Vacation."
Romney has come under criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for not offering enough details on what his foreign policy approach would be if he wins the White House. In previewing the speech Sunday, Romney aides argued he would offer "new details" on what his approach would be, but it was unclear exactly how far he would go in detailing exact policies.
"We've gotten various excuses about Benghazi, statements that (the White House) had to pull back from," Eliot Cohen, a former adviser to George W. Bush who is now advising Romney, told reporters Sunday. "But you haven't had an attempt to portray: What's going on here? How should we think about it? What should we do about it? Gov. Romney's going to do step forward and do the kind of things he would do as president--which is to lay out exactly those things."
But the excerpts of his speech included points that Romney has previously made before on the campaign trail, arguing the country's overseas leadership has diminished under Obama's watch.
"I believe that if America does not lead, others will--others who do not share our interests and our values--and the world will grow darker, for our friends and for us. America's security and the cause of freedom cannot afford four more years like the last four years," Romney will say, according to excerpts. "I am running for president because I believe the leader of the free world has a duty, to our citizens, and to our friends everywhere, to use America's great influence--wisely, with solemnity and without false pride, but also firmly and actively--to shape events in ways that secure our interests, further our values, prevent conflict, and make the world better--not perfect, but better."
I'll give Mitt an A for effort. For someone that has No foreign policy experience or knowledge and for picking a running mate with the no foreign policy experience or credentials he's got GIGANTIC balls....The President BETTER NOT let him get away with this next Thursday!!!
Updated at 8:40a.m.ET: PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – In a major foreign policy speech Monday Mitt Romney will attempt to stake out a more activist public position than President Barack Obama on supporting the rebels in Syria's civil war. Romney plans to say that he believes in working with partner nations to arm rebels fighting the government of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad.
He would equip the rebels – “who share our values” -- with heavy weapons to take out "tanks, helicopters and fighter jets," according to the remarks. The Obama administration has refrained from doing so out of concern that the weapons would end up in terrorist hands, according to The New York Times.
Romney will also argue that the U.S. must support the rebels to develop influence and good relations with the Syria’s future leaders.
Syria is just one area Romney will touch on in a speech in which the Republican nominee will attempt to portray himself as a leader firmly in the peace-through-strength tradition of Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan, while casting President Obama as an ineffective leader on a dangerous and constantly-evolving world stage.
Romney will deliver a 30-minute address, titled "The Mantle of Leadership," later Monday at the Virginia Military Institute, his 10th address on the topic of foreign policy since summer 2011.
The former Massachusetts governor's speech, like the others before it, will focus on a vision of peace through strength. It will include new details on how Romney would address current global hotspots and repeat regular stump speech staples – such as the importance of averting planned defense cuts, expanding and reinvesting in the U.S. military and working closely with allies abroad, especially Israel.
In prepared remarks released Sunday to reporters, Romney laid out global issues where his campaign hopes to draw "great contrast" with Obama – notably on Libya, Syria and Egypt.
The speech links the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi last month to al-Qaida, a position Romney has rarely engaged in on the campaign trail. Romney calls the attack "likely the work of the same forces that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001," and "the deliberate work of terrorists." The attack was not, he says, a spontaneous response to a movie trailer maligning the Muslim Prophet Mohammad, as the Obama administration initially said.
As he did at the Clinton Global Initiative last month, Romney will argue that U.S. aid to Egypt should be linked with promises from Egyptian leaders to uphold the 1979 peace treaty with Israel and to protect minorities, including the country’s Coptic Christians.
Romney, who offended some Palestinians with remarks he made in Israel suggesting the economic disparities between the Palestinian territories and Israel were based in part on cultural differences, will also promise to "recommit" to helping form a democratic Palestinian state alongside Israel.
"In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew," say Romney’s prepared remarks.
On the infamous "47 percent" tape of a Florida fundraising event in May, Romney predicted the Israeli/Palestinian conflict would "remain [an] unsolved problem."
"We have a potentially volatile situation, but we sort of live with it," Romney said at the May fundraiser, comparing the peace process to the decades-long standoff between China and Taiwan. "And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately somehow, something will happen to resolve it."
During a Sunday conference call with reporters, Romney foreign policy advisers said Monday’s foreign policy speech was meant to align Romney with the foreign policy tradition of Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan and George Marshall.
"If you look at Harry Truman and John Kennedy and the use of power by Bill Clinton in his second term that is a much different approach than Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama so I do think it’s a bipartisan tradition, it’s a recognition that strength is not provocative, its weakness that’s provocative," former Ambassador Rich Williamson, a Romney foreign policy adviser, said on the call. "There’s a fundamental difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and that’s part of the choice that American voters will be asked to make."
Democrats fired back preemptively at that characterization.
"Mainstream foreign policy isn't what Mitt Romney is putting forward: having plans to start wars but not end them; wanting to keep 30,000 U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely; exploding our defense spending to levels the Pentagon has not asked for, with no way to pay for it; insulting our allies and partners around the world on the campaign trail; and calling Russia our number-one geopolitical foe," Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith said in a statement Sunday. "If that's where Mitt Romney thinks the mainstream is, he needs to find a better compass."
Aboard Air Force One Sunday, Jen Psaki, the Obama campaign's traveling press secretary, was more cutting when asked her views on the speech.
"We're not going to be lectured by someone who has been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy every time he's dipped his toe in the foreign policy waters," Psaki told reporters. "The only person who has offended Europe more is probably Chevy Chase."
Arming the Syrians.... not so sure that is a wonderful idea. It seems as if we've done that a few times throughout history, and often it doesn't work to our advantage.
With that being said, Romney's foreign policy experience is at least equal to Obama's was 4 years ago and it wasn't so much a problem. (I was concerned about it and am concerned about Romney's as well.)
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