The Washington Times - July 11, 2012, 05:47PM

Mitt Romney and Republicans are taking sharp issue with President Obama’s assertion earlier this week that leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was not much a security threat to the United States.

“I was stunned by his comments, and shocked by them,” Mr. Romney said during a Fox News interview. “This is Hugo Chavez, this is Venezuela. This is Chavez who invited Iran in, who has invited Hezbollah. Hezbollah, of course, being a surrogate and proxy for Iran would potentially have access to weapons that could be used against us.”

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In an interview with a Miami television station Monday, Mr. Obama said Mr. Chavez, a sharp and outspoken critic of U.S. policy in the hemisphere, does not represent a serious national security threat to the United States.

“Overall, my sense is that what Mr. Chávez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us,” Mr. Obama said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney has remained mum on why the president made the comments about Mr. Chavez. During a briefing with reporters Wednesdasy, Mr. Carney referred a question about the president’s comment to the State Department.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and a surrogate for GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney, said she was taken aback by the president’s comments and said it seems like Mr. Obama is “blithely unaware of Chavez’s hatred for our nation, including his efforts to promote anti-American regimes across the Western Hemisphere undermining our foreign and security policies.”