- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2011

GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney said Monday that President Obama’s handling of foreign policy in the Middle East and around the globe has weakened America’s standing in the world.

“If you look around the world and say, ‘Have things become better or become worse under President Obama?’, you know the answer. They’ve become much worse,” he said.

In a wide-ranging phone interview with The Washington Times-affiliated “America’s Morning News” radio program, the former Massachusetts governor slammed Mr. Obama’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, questioned the White House’s Libya policy, took a jab at the vice president’s comments on rape and murder statistics - and weighed in on the World Series.

“Vice President Biden has had a bit of a language-control problem over the years, and this just adds to the list of very strange things he has said,” Mr. Romney said of Mr. Biden’s comments tying passage of the White House’s jobs plan to crime statistics.

But Mr. Romney was most critical of the Obama administration’s announcement last week that all American troops will leave Iraq by year’s end.

“Given the fact that we’ve seen almost 4,500 lives lost there, American lives, tens of thousands of American soldiers wounded, that we would pull out in a precipitous way and jeopardize the victories they fought so hard to win is simply inexcusable,” he said.

He also said the president could have done a better job anticipating the consequences of the “Arab Spring” - the street-level political revolutions that have erupted across the Middle East in the past year.

“We’re facing an Arab Spring which is out of control in some respects because the president was not as strong as he needed to be in encouraging our friends to move toward representative forms of government,” he said.

“Iran is that much closer to having a nuclear weapon. Now we have Iraq, which is going to be more susceptible to the influence of Iran by virtue of his miscalculation, in my view. This is not the kind of leadership America expected. We hoped to have a leader who would assure that our military remained the strongest in the world and [President Obama is] continuing to suggest that we’re going to see cuts in our military.”

Mr. Romney, who along with former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, is leading the GOP presidential field in national polls, said the death of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi raised as many questions as it answered.

“We’re all very happy that a very bad guy in Moammar Gadhafi was killed, but we never really heard from the president what’s going to happen now. And how can we try and improve the odds so what happens in Libya and what happens in Egypt and what happens in other places where the Arab Spring is in full bloom so that the developments are toward democracy, modernity and more representative forms of government? This we simply don’t know,” Mr. Romney said.

He blamed Obama’s policies for Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s startling comments this past weekend that his country would side with Pakistan in a conflict with the U.S. and Afghanistan’s neighbor.

“Karzai is reading the writing on the wall and is convinced that America is going to pull out before his government or his military is ready to protect the country. The president’s withdrawal plan - like what he’s doing in Iraq - is more based on American politics than it is based on a very effective and smooth transition to the domestic military,” Mr. Romney said.

In Concord, N.H., on Monday, Mr. Romney, accompanied by former Gov. John H. Sununu, who endorsed Mr. Romney over the weekend, formally submitted paperwork for the state’s presidential primary.

With experience and contacts from his unsuccessful 2008 bid in New Hampshire, Mr. Romney, who has a summer home in the state, is the overwhelming favorite in the first-in-the-nation primary, now expected to be held Jan. 10.

Asked for his reaction to Mr. Biden’s comments tying crime rates to passage of the Obama jobs plan, Mr. Romney said the vice president has “probably forgotten that the new stimulus plan the president has introduced has been turned down by the Democrats in the Senate. His own party has turned it down,” Mr. Romney said.

“Because they looked at the first stimulus and it did not work.

In remarks that infuriated conservatives and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Mr. Biden said last week that rapes and other crimes would increase if congressional Republicans block President Obama’s latest jobs proposal aimed at helping cities and states preserve police and teacher jobs.

The White House last week said it backed the vice president’s comments.

Mr. Romney also said he watched Saturday’s epic 16-7 St. Louis Cardinals win in the World Series over the Texas Rangers, a team once led by a fellow Republican, former President George W. Bush.

Mr. Romney praised the historic three home-run performance by Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols.

“I know President George W. Bush is there, pulling for the Rangers, so there’s some tug there,” he said, but “I’m pulling for the Cardinals.”

• David Eldridge can be reached at deldridge@washingtontimes.com.

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