Romney under pressure to define foreign policy
MITT ROMNEY will arrive in London today pursued by calls from Barack Obama’s administration to use his first overseas tour as the Republican presidential candidate to define a foreign policy that amounts to more than criticising the US president.
Mocked for his description of Russia as the US’s leading geopolitical foe and criticised for “posturing” over a military attack on Iran, Mr Romney hopes to use his visits to Britain, Israel and Poland over the next week to counter the perception that he has a tenuous grip on foreign affairs.
Convention has it that contenders for the White House do not attack the president while on foreign soil but the Obama campaign invited just that when it challenged Mr Romney to use two scheduled speeches to spell out what he would do differently.
“I don’t know how you give a major foreign policy speech and not give the policy details,” said Robert Gibbs, a former White House spokesman and now an Obama campaign adviser. “The bar really is whether or not Mitt Romney is finally ready to shed a little light on what appears to be the secrecy of his foreign policy plans.”
The Romney campaign said the three countries on the tour itinerary were chosen as “pillars of liberty” and for their strong ties to the US. It said the intent was to demonstrate a resolute stand with places that share America’s values – a hint at the Republican contender’s claim that Mr Obama has let down Washington’s friends abroad while offering grovelling apologies to its enemies.
In London Mr Romney’s meetings with prime minister David Cameron, his deputy Nick Clegg and Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, will permit him for the first time to project himself as a politician capable of reaching beyond his limited political experience as a state governor.
Mr Romney will also meet chancellor George Osborne – a chance to ally himself with an economic strategy of deep cuts to public spending.
The Republican contender plans to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, providing an opportunity to remind US voters of his claim to have saved the 2002 Salt Lake City winter Games from meltdown.
His trip to Israel is the most likely to have political impact back home, not least as Mr Romney attempts to rally conservative Christian evangelical voters who are strong supporters of Israel but sceptical about his Mormon faith.
Mr Romney’s team said he was going to “learn and listen”, but the Obama campaign is piling pressure on Mr Romney to clarify his criticism of the president’s approach to Iran’s nuclear programme. It has homed in on Mr Romney’s claim that Mr Obama is not strong enough in confronting Tehran and too weak in failing to promise unconditional support for Israel if it attacks Iran.