LEXINGTON, Va. Republican nominee Mitt Romney on Monday accused President Obama of "passive" leadership in the Middle East in a foreign-policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute. "Hope is not a strategy," the Republican nominee said, attacking the president's 2008 campaign slogan of "hope and change."
Romney called for more direct intervention in Syria, including making sure anti-government opposition forces have weapons. And while he emphasized that the responsibility for the murder of U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya, lies solely with those who carried out the attack, Romney also criticized the Obama administration for its initial focus on an anti-Islamic video as the trigger for the attack.
The renewed focus on foreign policy comes after several weeks of unrest in the Middle East resulting in widespread protests, attacks on multiple American embassies, and the deadly attacks in Benghzai. Romney called the recent attacks "expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East" and argue for changing course in the region.
Romney, who has little foreign policy experience on his resume, has been criticized for some of his previous statements on international affairs. An overseas trip he took in July was largely overshadowed by negative reaction to comments he made about England's lack of preparation for the Olympics and a perceived slight of Palestinians, whom he implied were culturally inferior to their Jewish neighbors. He took heat for an inaccurate, premature attack on the Obama administration as events were unfolding in Libya. Most recently, he offended Spanish leaders when he said in the debate that he doesn't want the U.S. to "go down the path of Spain."
The VMI speech gave Romney an opportunity to make "voters comfortable with Romney as commander in chief," said Republican strategist and former McCain adviser Ford O'Connell. He pointed to a recent Gallup poll that shows Obama with higher foreign policy approval ratings than Romney and said the goal of the speech is also to "close that gap a little bit."