- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2012

LEXINGTON, Va. — President Obama’s re-election campaign on Monday launched a pre-emptive strike ahead of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s planned foreign policy address, arguing that Mr. Romney has failed the the commander-in-chief test on the global stage — in part by staking out positions to the right of former President George W. Bush.

The Obama camp released a new television advertisement and issued a memo on Monday criticizing Mr. Romney’s bumpy overseas trip this summer as well as his response to the assaults on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya — highlighting how a national security adviser to GOP Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign called Mr. Romney’s stance on Libya the “the worst possible reaction.”

Mr. Romney is set to give a broad-scale attack on Mr. Obama’s handling of foreign policy and national security issues in a speech this morning here at the Virginia Military Institute.

In the memo, two former top Obama national security advisers — Michele Flournoy and Colin Kahl — say the former Massachusetts governor’s “latest effort to reboot and re-set the Romney foreign policy” cannot hide the fact that he pushes positions “outside of the mainstream and often to the right of even George W. Bush.”

That, they say, is not surprising because Mr. Romney has surrounded himself with the same ex-Bush advisers who embraced what they called the “with-us-or-against-us approach” that led to “some of the worst foreign policy failures in American history, including the Iraq War.”

The Obama camp also challenged Mr. Romney “to move beyond swagger and slogans” and spell out how exactly his foreign policy approach would differ from the current occupant of the White House.

“Governor Romney still can’t say what he’d do differently on Iran other than taking us to war,” the memo says. “He continues to criticize the president’s time line in Afghanistan even while saying he’d pursue it as president. His position on Libya has no credibility since he’s been both for and against our Libya policy. And he offers no way forward on Syria other than suggesting that the United States should get more deeply involved in the conflict without defining a strategy.”

According to excerpts of the speech that he will deliver at the VMI, Mr. Romney will touch on some of those topics, while arguing that the United States must have a more robust present in world affairs. He also will warn that the attacks on U.S. diplomatic posts last month are part of a broader struggle that is playing out across the Middle East and represent an effort by Islamic extremist to “wage perpetual war on the West.”

“Hope is not a strategy,” Mr. Romney will say. “We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to speak of, and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity.”

The Obama camp, though, argued in the memo Monday that their boss has been “one of the strongest national security records of any president in generations.”

“He has decimated al Qaeda’s leadership, taken out Osama bin Laden, ended the war in Iraq, provided unparalleled support to Israel, produced unprecedented pressure on Iran, strengthened our alliances, and restored our standing in the world,” they said.

But the Romney campaign pushed back ahead of the speech, arguing that Mr. Obama has weakened America’s standing abroad in the past four years.

“In every region of the world — and particularly in the Middle East — American influence has been weakened by President Obama’s failed foreign policy,” said Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg. “American security and the cause of freedom cannot afford four more years like the last four years, and Mitt Romney will restore the bipartisan tradition of American leadership abroad that President Obama has not lived up to. Mitt Romney understands that a strong America is vital to ensuring peace and prosperity for our nation and our friends and allies.”

In the new ad released Monday, the Obama camp highlighted critical news reports of the way Mr. Romney stumbled through his July trip to Britain, Israel and Poland, and the biting commentary of Anthony Cordesman, a McCain adviser from the 2008 presidential campaign, who said the former Massachusetts governor’s response to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya was “the worst possible reaction.”

“If this is how he handles the world now, just think what Mitt Romney might do as president,” the narrator says in the ad.