Romney to Deliver Foreign Policy Speech, Looking to Turn Back Criticism
LEXINGTON, Va. - Mitt Romney plans to deliver a foreign policy speech today in which he will try to reverse some of his perceived missteps, most notably his highly criticized response to the terrorist attack in Libya, as the Republican GOP candidate looks to bolster his foreign affair credentials in the weeks remaining before the election.
The Romney campaign will use the remarks to strengthen their criticism of the Obama administration's response to last month's terrorist attacks in Libya, hoping to capitalize on what they believe to be a mishandling by the administration to accurately pinpoint the reason for the attacks or to have prevented them in the first place.
"The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts," Romney will say, according to excerpts released by the campaign. "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.
"The attack on our Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, was likely the work of the same forces that attacked our homeland on Sept. 11, 2001," Romney is expected to say. "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.
"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 say, according to the prepared remarks.
It was nine days after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, one that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that the White House believed the attack to be an act of terrorism. The White House had initially suggested that the attack broke out after an anti-Islam film went viral, sparking a round of global protests.
The evening the attack was reported, Romney drew criticism after he accused the Obama administration of "sympathizing" with the attackers before all the details of the attacks were known. It was not yet confirmed at the time that Stevens had been killed. Romney, as well as his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, began receiving customary intelligence briefings organized by the Obama administration shortly thereafter, and Romney has so far been briefed twice.
Romney advisers say that today will be a chance for Romney to "fill in more details" with respect to his own plan, in Libya and beyond. The speech, to be delivered at the Virginia Military Institute, comes just a week before the next presidential debate, which will focus partially on foreign affairs, and two weeks before the final debate, which will focus entirely on the subject.
"We've seen the fruits of four years of President Obama's foreign policy and I think, particularly in light of recent events, Americans have questions about it and want to see what Governor Romney would offer," Romney's foreign and legal policy adviser Alex Wong said in a briefing call with reporters over the weekend. "So it's a moment for Governor Romney to speak about that, to offer that bold choice and to show really that American security and the cause of freedom can't afford four more years like the last four years."
In addition to the attack on Libya, Romney is expected to address the situation in the Middle East on a whole, saying that it is time to "change course" in the region.
"I know the President hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States," Romney will say. "I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy. We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to speak of, and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity."
The excerpts indicate that Romney will also touch on furthering the sanctions placed on Iran to prevent the country from acquiring nuclear weapons, and will support sending more aid to Syria to support the uprising against President Assad. Romney will renew his call for U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan to be completed by the end of 2014.
And while Romney cast doubt on the ability to establish a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel in a surreptitiously filmed video shot at a fundraiser earlier this year, in which he called such a scenario "unthinkable," Romney will say here today that he will "recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel."
Romney had remained hopeful in the fundraising video, saying later in the clip that he believed American strength would help Palestine "someday reach a point where they want peace."
In a statement preempting the candidate's speech, Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said all Romney has offered thus far on foreign policy is "bluster and platitudes."
"If Mitt Romney wants to have a debate about foreign policy, we have a message for him: bring it on," Smith said in a statement, going on to accuse him of "erratically" shifting positions on "every major foreign policy."
And in a scathing comment aboard Air Force One on Sunday, Obama's traveling press secretary Jen Psaki doubted Romney's foreign policy competency all together.
"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," she said. "Just as a refresher, this is the same guy who, when he went overseas on his trip, the only person who has offended Europe more is probably Chevy Chase. And that was a trip that was built up."
ABC News' Mary Bruce contributed to this report.