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Ahead of Trip, Romney Team Rips Obama on Defense

Ahead of Trip, Romney Team Rips Obama on Defense

By Erin McPike - July 24, 2012


On the eve of Mitt Romney's trip overseas, his campaign took a big step Tuesday toward countering perceptions that President Obama's record should trump his own on foreign policy and national security.

Before the presumptive Republican presidential nominee spoke to the national convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, a handful of Romney advisers blasted the White House for alleged security leaks and decried the administration’s propensity to look to the defense budget as a place to trim federal spending. Adviser Dan Senor went so far as to intimate that the president was a naïf on foreign policy, whereas Romney has a more extensive background via his foreign travel.

Pouncing on a Senate report that needled the White House for leaks, Romney said in his Nevada remarks: “This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a national security crisis. And yesterday, Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, quote, ‘I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks.’ ”

Romney then called for a full investigation, saying: “This conduct is contemptible. It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation by a special counsel, with explanation and consequence. Obama appointees, who are accountable to President Obama's attorney general, should not be responsible for investigating the leaks coming from the Obama White House.”

The GOP candidate suggested that releasing the findings of such an internal investigation after the election reeks of politics. He also accused the president of playing politics with respect to the war in Afghanistan. And although he has criticized Obama in the past for setting a timetable to withdraw American forces from the conflict, he said his goal would be to transition control of the war to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

He also accused Obama of weakness in the face of a nuclear threat from Iran and called for a complete cessation of uranium enrichment there.

And, as if in answer to his opponent’s charge more than four months ago that Republicans were “beating the drums of war” regarding Iran, Romney said: “I pledge to you and to all Americans that if I become commander-in-chief, I will use every means necessary to protect ourselves and the region, and to prevent the worst from happening while there is still time.”

The combination of Romney’s speech, his trip abroad and a conference call his advisers held with reporters before the address collectively mark the first time the Romney team has launched a coordinated offensive on what is seen as Obama’s strongest set of credentials. Polls consistently show that voters think the president is better equipped than Romney to handle national security matters.

Broadly, the campaign is trying to cast the president as naïve and inexperienced with little regard for the U.S. military.

Previewing Romney’s trip in comparison to a similar one taken by Obama as a candidate in 2008, Senor said, “I understand when President Obama, then candidate Obama, traveled abroad, many of the countries he was visiting were countries he was visiting for the first time.” He then noted, “Governor Romney has been traveling to all these regions for years.”

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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