Romney's Foreign Agenda: Listen, Learn, Olympics The Republican candidate, a man with a lot of domestic policy experience, is now trying to demonstrate his proficiency with international affairs. Aides stress that the journey to the U.K., Israel and Poland will include little in the way of political attacks or policy announcements.
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Romney's Foreign Agenda: Listen, Learn, Olympics

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Romney's Foreign Agenda: Listen, Learn, Olympics

Romney's Foreign Agenda: Listen, Learn, Olympics

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The Obama administration's policy on Syria will likely come up today when Mitt Romney addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars. It's a sort of launching pad for a foreign trip that will take Romney to Britain, Israel and Poland over the next week.

NPR's Ari Shapiro reports that Romney has a lot of domestic policy experience, and is now trying to show his international credentials.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: For anyone wondering what this trip is all about, Romney aides Lanhee Chen, Dan Senor and Andrea Saul left no ambiguity in a recent conference call with reporters.


LANHEE CHEN: This is trip is really an opportunity for the governor to learn and listen.

DAN SENOR: To listen and to learn, as Lanhee...

CHEN: To learn and to listen.

SENOR: Learning. Listening.

ANDREA SAUL: Solely an opportunity to listen and that...

SENOR: It is about listening and learning and...

CHEN: To listen and learn.

SHAPIRO: What exactly does that mean? Well, for one, it means Romney won't do much attacking on this trip. American political tradition generally dictates that criticism of the president stops at the water's edge. And press secretary Andrea Saul says Romney intends to follow that rule.


SAUL: The contrast will be kept here in the States.

SHAPIRO: Listen and learn also means Romney won't roll out any big initiatives while he's abroad. Lanhee Chen is the campaign's policy director.


CHEN: We are not seeing this as an opportunity to make new policy. We're not seeing this as an opportunity to make new policy pronouncements.

SHAPIRO: That makes this trip different from Barack Obama's 2008 campaign tour that took him to several countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany, where hundreds of thousands of people turned out to hear the candidate speak in Berlin.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I know that I don't look like the Americans who've previously spoken in this great city.

SHAPIRO: Robert Gibbs, who was the Obama campaign spokesman on that trip, reminded reporters yesterday that that itinerary was heavy on policy.

ROBERT GIBBS: The question, I think, for Governor Romney is whether this trip will be similarly substantive and live up to the bar that was set in 2008, or whether this is one long photo op and fundraising tour.

SHAPIRO: Romney has scheduled big money events in England and Israel. In London, his fundraising hosts include lobbyists and banking executives associated with the LIBOR rate-fixing scandal. That has brought criticism from some British members of parliament. Romney's main public focus in London is the Olympics. The campaign hopes to call attention to his work turning around the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Then in Israel, he'll meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They've known each other for decades, and Netanyahu told CBS's "Face the Nation" he'll give Romney more or less the same advice he gave candidate Barack Obama four years ago.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I'll tell him about Israel's desire for peace, and also about Israel's concern with the arming of Iran with nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, it's still with us four years later.

SHAPIRO: The Romney campaign notes that President Obama has not yet visited Israel during his time in office. Romney has promised that as president, his first foreign trip would be to Israel. Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations says that demonstrates just how important this trip is for domestic electoral politics.

ROBERT DANIN: Israel is popular in the United States, has a strong standing - not just among American Jews, but, more importantly in electoral terms, with evangelical Christians and others.

SHAPIRO: In addition, Americans living abroad counted for almost 700,000 ballots in 2008. The final stop of Romney's trip is Poland, where he'll give another public speech in Warsaw. Danin says this itinerary is clearly designed to emphasize allies and shared values - not pressing foreign policy crises. The rise of China, the Afghan war, the Arab Spring and the European economic crisis will all take a back seat to broad themes of liberty and freedom.

DANIN: The fact that he's not visiting difficult countries, let's say - places where he would have a lot to learn, but maybe where the conversations may also be difficult - is somewhat striking.

SHAPIRO: In April, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that voters trust the president to do a better job handling foreign affairs than Mitt Romney, by 56 percent to 37 percent. One way to measure whether this trip is a success is to see if that gap shrinks after Romney comes home. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

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