Romney Challenges Obama's Foreign Policy Record

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev. He used the occasion for a sustained assault on President Obama's performance as commander in chief. Don Gonyea talks to Audie Cornish.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention today. He mounted a relentless attack on President Obama's record on foreign policy and national security. Romney's appearance comes one day after the president addressed the group. While Mr. Obama yesterday touted the end of the Iraq War and the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the U.S. role in overthrowing Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Romney cast the president's record as one of hesitation, apology and self-promotion.

NPR's Don Gonyea is with us from Reno, where the VFW Convention is taking place. Hi there, Don.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: So, both the president and Mitt Romney have now spoken to the VFW about the defense budget and the potential cuts that are coming there, as part of the budget deal. What did Romney have to say about that today?

GONYEA: The president yesterday said he's made the military smarter and stronger. But Romney said that those potentially looming budget cuts that could come at year's end would be simply devastating to the military and to America's readiness. Give a listen to what he said right here.

MITT ROMNEY: Strategy is not driving the president's massive defense cuts. In fact, his own secretary of defense warned that these reductions would be devastating, and he's right. And the devastation would start here at home. Mark my words, those cuts would only weaken an already stretched VA system.

GONYEA: And again, you can hear Governor Romney referring to them as President Obama's massive defense cuts. They are not, in fact, the president's defense cuts. They are part of this deal worked out by Congress that would only go into effect if no other deal is reached by the end of the year for other cuts.

CORNISH: Now, another accusation from Governor Romney, this one about accusing the White House of leaking sensitive materials to the press for political gain, including on one of the president's biggest national security successes, the hunt for and the killing of Osama bin Laden. So what's the case that Romney made there?

GONYEA: This is a case of Mitt Romney going after the president on what is perceived as one of the president's real foreign policy strengths. How do you turn that into a negative? You accuse the president, the White House, as Romney did today of spiking the football, of bragging. Here's how he describes it.

ROMNEY: After secret operational details of the bin Laden raid were given to reporters, Secretary Gates walked into the West Wing and told the Obama team to shut up. And he added a colorful word for emphasis.

GONYEA: Romney says that's a case of the administration leaking things for political purposes. He says there have been other examples of it involving Iran's nuclear program and other sensitive issues. And again, he was very, very critical of the president on that.

CORNISH: Now, when it comes to foreign policy experience, a former governor can be obviously at a disadvantage compared to a president. So what did Romney say about his own plans on foreign policy, should he win the White House?

GONYEA: Basically it's that he will be tough, he will be resolute. He will fully fund the military. There won't be any cuts. It was really a full-throated patriotism and unabashed loyalty to this country, and to what he described as an American century where we will have peace through strength.

CORNISH: NPR's Don Gonyea, speaking with us from the Veterans of Foreign Wars annual convention in Reno. Don, thank you.

GONYEA: Thank you.

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