Romney Attacks Obama's Foreign Policy

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney attacked President Obama's foreign policy during a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Tuesday. He spoke a day after the president addressed the same group's national convention in Reno, Nevada.

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And I'm Renee Montagne.

Mitt Romney delivered his sharpest attack to date on President Obama's foreign policy. He was speaking at a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nevada, the same group Mr. Obama addressed on Monday. Yesterday, Mitt Romney called the president weak and indecisive, adding that his, quote, radical policies are weakening the military and putting the country at risk.

NPR's Don Gonyea was there and filed this report.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Like the president a day earlier, Romney opened his speech with a brief tribute to the U.S. military veterans who died in last week's Colorado shootings. Romney then noted that he had spoken to the VFW a year earlier, while still competing for the GOP nomination, adding that the questions he asked then remain: Has the American economy recovered? Has our ability to shape world events been enhanced or diminished?

MITT ROMNEY: Have we gained greater confidence among our allies and greater respect from our adversaries? And perhaps most importantly, has the most severe security threat facing America and our friends, a nuclear-armed Iran, become more likely or less likely?

GONYEA: Romney said by these tests the president has not earned a second term. He then added...

ROMNEY: I am an unapologetic believer in the greatness of America.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: I am not ashamed of American power. I take pride that throughout history our power has brought justice where there was tyranny, peace where there was conflict, and hope where there was affliction and despair.

GONYEA: In the speech, Romney barely mentioned Iraq, where the U.S. combat role has ended. But he did criticize the president's decision to draw down the troops sent into Afghanistan during the surge of American forces.

ROMNEY: The president would have you believe that anyone who disagrees with his decision is arguing for endless war. But the route to more war - and potentially to attacks here at home - is a politically timed retreat.

GONYEA: He was particularly blunt on the potential for big cuts to the Pentagon budget later this year. Such cuts are threatened as part of a deficit reduction deal passed by majorities of both parties in Congress last year. If Congress can't come up with a deal on alternative cuts by the end of this year, then automatic cuts take place. Those would include cuts to defense.

But In Romney's speech, President Obama has sole ownership of those automatic cuts.

ROMNEY: This is no time for the president's radical cuts in our military.

GONYEA: Romney called the president's treatment of allies, quote, "shabby." And in the tradition of hitting your opponent where he's strong, Romney went after Mr. Obama on the killing of Osama bin Laden.

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: The VFW is not a unified voting bloc. It leans Republican, but there are plenty of Democrats. And the president was well-received the day before, talking about issues on which he scores well with voters.

Still, Romney supporters in the VFW audience were many and highly enthusiastic, welcoming his unusually direct assault. Romney closed with one final jab.

ROMNEY: If you don't want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I'm not your president. But with his cuts to the military, you have that president today.

GONYEA: Romney left Reno later in the day, flying to London for the start of a three-country tour that includes Poland and Israel. In his speech yesterday, he said he would not be criticizing the president while on foreign soil.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Reno, Nevada.

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