- The Washington Times - Monday, July 23, 2012

President Obama’s campaign is criticizing Mitt Romney’s upcoming six-day overseas trip as a pale imitation of the foreign campaign swing Mr. Obama took as a candidate in 2008 and suggested that it will be light on substance and heavy on fundraising.

“We did not do fundraisers on our trip,” Robert Gibbs, Obama’s former press secretary at the White House, told reporters on a conference call. “In many ways, some of the early itineraries look like Romney’s trip might be almost entirely built around fundraising.”

Mr. Romney, who has been sharply critical of parts of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy, plans to visit the Summer Olympics in London later this week and then travel to Israel and Poland.

U.S. presidential campaigns cannot legally take money from foreign nationals, but American citizens who live abroad can contribute and vote.

Mr. Gibbs, who serves as a senior adviser to the Obama campaign, acknowledged that the president, has sent “surrogates overseas to do fundraisers with American citizens.”

Mr. Gibbs, as well as other Obama campaign advisers and aides on the call, aimed much criticism at the Romney campaign’s depiction of the trip as a learning opportunity rather than an effort to define his foreign policy.

“The American people demand and require something greater of their political candidates than speaking to a fundraising reception,” Mr. Gibbs said. “The bar really is whether or not Mitt Romney really is finally going to shed a little light on what appears to be the secrecy of his foreign-policy plans.”

The Romney campaign vehemently defended the trip, arguing that Mr. Obama’s foreign policy has weakened America’s standing in the world. His aides also pointed to reports during Mr. Obama’s 2008 trip that his campaign used his speech in Berlin in a fundraising solicitation just hours afterward.

“President Obama thinks visiting our closest ally in the Middle East is a ‘distraction,’ that [Venezuelan populist leader] Hugo Chavez is not a ‘serious’ threat, and that the right response to Russia is to promise more ‘flexibility’ in exchange for giving [Russian leader Vladimir Putin] ‘space’ before the election,” said Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg. “It is clear that President Obama’s foreign policy is confused, ineffective and has weakened our influence in every region of the world.”

Other Obama aides called on Mr. Romney to put more meat on his critique of Mr. Obama’s foreign-policy decisions in places such as Afghanistan, Iran and Libya.

Specifically, the aides wanted to know whether Mr. Romney plans to persuade other NATO allies to keep troops in Afghanistan when they have already agreed to leave by 2015.

“All of our NATO allies are in complete agreement” about withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2015, said Michele Flournoy, Mr. Obama’s former undersecretary of defense for policy, adding that she wants to know how he will explain his intention to keep troops past that date to British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Colin Kahl, Mr. Obama’s former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, also called on Mr. Romney to explain a recent statement that he would “do the opposite” from what the Obama administration has done when it comes to Israel.

He mentioned Mr. Obama’s work to help Israel build a missile-defense system and secure more than $10 billion to help defend Israel.

“Would Mitt Romney really do the opposite?” Mr. Kahl asked.

During the Republican primary, Mr. Romney pledged to take his first trip as president to Israel “to show the world we care about that country and that region.”

The Obama campaign said Mr. Obama, who has not visited Israel in his first term, would likely travel to the country in a second term and noted that Ronald Reagan never visited Israel and George W. Bush only did so during his second term.

“I think it’s basically a distraction,” Mr. Kahl said of the criticism that Mr. Obama has not yet visited Israel.

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