Romney finds warm reception in Poland, but critics still fuming over Palestinian remarks in Israel

(CBS News) WARSAW, Poland - Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney heads back to the U.S. Tuesday after a week-long overseas trip.

He made one final speech in Poland's capital - but critics are still focucing on some controversial comments from Romney during his prior stop, in Israel.

Romney's speech in Warsaw was full of praise and admiration for Poland's struggle for liberty. "In a turbulent world, Poland stands as an example, and a defender of freedom," he said.

Romney continued to suggest that, if elected president, he would be a stronger defender of America's allies than President Obama has been.

"I believe it's critical to stand by those who have stood by America," Romney declared. "It is for us, in this generation and beyond, to show all the world what free people and free economies can achieve for the good of all."

Romney found a receptive audience for that message in Poland, which has had a strained relationship with the Obama administration.

The White House canceled a missile defense system when Moscow objected, and the tension escalated after Mr. Obama told then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev he would "have more flexibility" in his second term.

Romney was invited to Poland by Lech Walesa, a human rights activist who became a legend in the country for co-founding Solidarity, a post-Soviet labor union. After their meeting, Walesa essentially endorsed Romney and implored him to win in November.

Romney also met with current Prime Minister Donald Tuck, stopped by a memorial to honor Polish soldiers, and greeted crowds that spilled onto the streets.

Full coverage: Election 2012

But his warm welcome was overshadowed by comments he made at a fundraiser before leaving Israel.

Talking to major donors, Romney described what he sees as cultural differences between Israel and the Palestinian people that make Israel more economically successful.

A spokesman for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called Romney's comments racist.

The White House saw an opening to criticize Romney. "One of the challenges of being an actor on the international stage, particularly when you're traveling to such a sensitive part of the world, is that your comments are very closely scrutinized," pointed out White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest. " ... And it is clear that there are some people who have taken a look at those comments and are scratching their heads a little bit."

It appears some of the campaign's frustrations are starting to spill out.

Romney visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Tuesday, and as he left, reporters shouted questions at him about the Palestinians and their response.

He didn't answer.

An aide told reporters to show respect, that it was a holy site for the Polish people. But the questions continued,and the aide told reporters to shove it.

He later called to apologize, saying he'd lost his cool and that his remarks were inappropriate.

To see Jan Crawford's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Jan Crawford On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.

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