- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mitt Romney told the nation’s oldest major veterans organization Tuesday that the Obama administration’s push to cut defense spending is based on either a misguided belief that the world is becoming a safer place or a wrongheaded notion that the United States should “become a lesser power.”

Wading into the thorny debt and budget, the former Massachusetts governor suggested military spending should be protected — something that’s become contentious among the Republicans on the campaign trail and on Capitol Hill. A growing chorus of lawmakers have argued the nation can no longer afford to police the world and, if Washington is serious about cutting costs, defense spending must be on the chopping block.

Speaking at the 112th Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in San Antonio, Mr. Romney ripped the $400 billion in cuts to projected military spending that the president mentioned in an April speech dedicated to deficit reduction.

He also took aim at the debt deal that House Republicans struck this summer with Senate Democrats and the White House — a package that could generate upward of $850 billion in additional cuts to projected defense spending over the next decade. The deal, however, has come under fire from some tea party leaders who say the proposed cuts don’t go deep enough and doubt they’ll materialize.

“This is the first time in my memory that massive defense cuts were proposed without any reference to the missions that would be foreclosed and the risks to which our country and its men and women in uniform would be exposed,” Mr. Romney said.

“It flows from the conviction that if we are weak, tyrants will choose to be weak as well; that if we could just talk more, engage more, pass more U.N. resolutions, that peace will break out,” he added. “That may be what they think in that Harvard faculty lounge, but it’s not what they know on the battlefield.”

President Obama, meanwhile, spoke Tuesday at the American Legion’s 93rd National Convention in Minneapolis, where he vowed not to “balance the budget on the backs of our veterans,” saying that “as commander in chief, I won’t allow it.”

Mr. Romney’s remarks came less than a day after Texas Gov. Rick Perry appeared at the VFW convention, where he ditched the off-the-cuff style that’s gotten him in some trouble on the campaign trail and delivered a speech in which he outlined a foreign policy vision that was thick on rhetoric but relatively light on substance.

He called on the United States to avoid “military adventurism.”

“We should only risk shedding American blood and spending American treasure when our vital interests are threatened, and we should always look to build coalitions among the nations,” Mr. Perry said.

The dueling appearances and contrasting style of speeches came as the GOP presidential field gears up for the post-Labor Day stretch run in the nomination process and after Mr. Romney watched Mr. Perry sprint ahead of him in national polls, knocking him out of his long-standing front-runner status.

Romney is working overtime to cut into Perry’s lead among tea party conservatives, while Perry is working to show that he can deliver statesmanlike speeches,” said Ron bon Jean, a GOP political consultant.

The Romney camp also announced Tuesday that “we’re pleased we were able to arrange our schedule” so the former governor can take part in a GOP presidential debate that Sen. Jim DeMint is hosting in South Carolina — making it the first time Mr. Romney and Mr. Perry will appear together since becoming rivals.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and businessman Herman Cain also are slated to attend the American Principles Project’s “Palmetto Freedom Forum.”