Romney's foreign trip takes another contentious turn

At the White House, deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest called on Romney to "further explain what he meant."

"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, for meaning, for nuance, for motivation," Earnest said, "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."

Prominent conservatives were just as quick to jump to Romney's defense.

(Watch a clip of CBS News' Jan Crawford's recent interview with Romney.)

At a campaign event in Virginia, former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said it was appropriate to explore the kinds of questions that Romney had raised.

"I think it's fair to say, 'Why are some places poor?' " Gingrich said. "And maybe it's not just because they've been deprived. Maybe it's also because they don't have maybe the right habits, the right legal structure, or the right system of encouragement."

Max Boot, a senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told RCP that Romney deserves credit for his candor.

"I think Gov. Romney made an important point: Palestinians need to stop blaming all their troubles on Israel and look within for the sources of their trouble," Boot said in an email. "Israel has flourished under extremely difficult circumstances -- a small nation with no mineral wealth and surrounded by enemies bent on its destruction. Palestinians could have flourished as well if they had chosen to concentrate on peaceful economic development in cooperation with Israel rather than allowing thuggish leaders such as Yasser Arafat to funnel their resources into terrorism and corruption."

On Monday, Romney touched down in Poland for the third and final leg of his weeklong international excursion.

He was greeted warmly by crowds in the Baltic city of Gdansk, where the Polish Solidarity movement -- which helped bring about the collapse of communism within the former Warsaw Pact nation -- was founded in 1980.

Romney met with Solidarity's founder, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Polish President Lech Walesa, who had invited him to visit the country and appeared to give the Republican his backing. Romney also held talks with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and visited monuments that memorialized Solidarity and Poland's role in World War II.

On Tuesday, Romney is slated to meet with other leaders and visit additional memorial sites before delivering the second major foreign policy address of his trip. That speech will be watched for the extent to which he maintains his hard line against Russia, whom he has previously described as America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe."

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    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.