Presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized President Obama’s foreign policy today in a speech delivered to the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, accusing the president of simply “hoping” for peace, and later vowed that if he wins the White House in 2012 he will cut spending where he could to bolster the nation’s military prowess.
“We can’t lead the world by hoping our enemies will hate us less,” said Romney to the veterans gathered at the convention held in San Antonio, Texas. “American strength is the only guarantee of liberty.”
Speaking in the home state of his top GOP rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Romney also took a veiled swipe at his competitor, remarking, “I have spent more of my life outside of politics, dealing with the real problems in the real economy. Career politicians got us into this mess and they simply don’t know how to get us out.”
Taking a jab at the President’s time at Harvard, Romney quipped that while some may think that foreign policy based on the belief that “if we are weak, tyrants will choose to be weak as well” and that if we “chose to talk more, engage more” that peace will come, he said “That may be what they think in that Harvard faculty lounge, but it’s not what they know on the battlefield!”
“As American veterans, you understand better than anyone that weakness invites aggression and that the best ally of peace is a strong America,” said Romney.
“We’ve lost a couple of years,” said Romney, referring to Obama’s time in office. “But we haven’t lost our way.”
Referring to “enormous waste” in the defense budget, Romney said that his background in the private sector gives him the urge to “look at that kind of inefficiency and bloat and say, ‘Let me at it.’”
“I will slice billions of dollars in waste and inefficiency and bureaucracy from the defense budget,” said Romney. “I will use the money we save for modern ships and planes, and for more troops. And I’ll spend it to ensure that veterans have the care they deserve.”
While Perry, who spoke on Monday at the same convention, highlighted his history in the Air Force, for which he flew C-130s for from 1972 to 1977, Romney drew on his experience as the Governor of Massachusetts, a post that lead him to many military hospitals both stateside and abroad.
“I met with our soldiers in the anxious days before deployments to dangerous places,” said Romney. “I welcomed them home, sometimes in celebrations. Sometimes in caskets.”
Romney also repeated a story he’s told before on the campaign trail, often growing emotional when he does, about a time when he was asked to go to Boston’s Logan International Airport to receive the body of a soldier who had been killed in Iraq. Romney recalls how he had his hand over his heart as the casket came off the plane and when he looked behind him into the glass enclosed terminal, a “huge crowd” had gathered to watch – their hands over their hearts, too.
“I couldn’t see the tears through the class, but I could see the faces, the sorrow, the admiration, the appreciation for that young soldier,” he said.
Romney never served in the military. He received a deferment from the draft during the Vietnam War because of his work as a Mormon missionary.