PAINESVILLE, Ohio — Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominee, challenged President Obama’s foreign policy chops on Thursday, telling supporters that the Democrat has sent mixed message to the world and said the United States “must protect the embassies of our nation.”
The former Massachusetts also accused Mr. Obama of passing on the chance to meet next with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
Mr. Romney leveled the attacks at a big-ticket fundraiser in New York City, hours before Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid tribute Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and the staffers - Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty — who were killed after an angry mob stormed the consulate in Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya.
Mr. Romney watched the ceremony via television before taking the stage at a campaign event here in Ohio, where he kicked off his speech by holding a moment of silence for the diplomats.
“Whether on a day like this, where the sky seems to be crying as well, or whether on a beautiful and sunny day, we remember those who serve and provide us with the liberty that we enjoy and the prosperity and the freedoms that are so much a part of the American experience,” he said.
Mr. Romney’s visit to Ohio was his second in five days — underscoring the important role that the Buckeye State is expected to play in the Nov. 6 election. The latest realclearpolitics.com average of polls shows Mr. Obama with a 4 point edge over Mr. Romney.
In the wake of the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Cairo and the consulate in Libya, the Romney campaign has sharpened its attacks on Mr. Obama’s foreign policy credentials.
He has played up the idea that the the president should do more to embrace the democratic movements that led the uprisings in the Middle East, while vowing to label China a currency manipulator and to reverse the defense spending cuts that were set into motion by the debt deal lawmakers hashed out last year that allowed them to raise the nation’s borrowing limit.
The Republican on Friday knocked Mr. Obama for not agreeing to meet in person with Mr. Netanyahu ahead of the United Nation’s General Assembly meeting next week.
“When the prime minister of Israel says, ‘I’m going to be in New York, can we meet?’ and the president says, ‘No, I’m too busy’ — I can’t imagine that circumstance,” he said. “I don’t know what the president is trying to send to the world in terms of a message but it does send a message.”
The White House has denied reports that Mr. Obama rejected Mr. Netanyahu’s request for a meeting next week around the start of the United Nations General Assembly meeting.
He also played up the notion that the president has been an apologists for American foreign policy, saying that in the first televised interview did as president, Mr. Obama told an Arabic TV channel the past America had dictated to other nations.
“No Mr. President we did not dictate to other nations, we freed other nations from dictators!” he told the hundreds who ponied up somewhere between $2,500 and $25,00 to attend the breakfast.
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