AUDIO RELEASE: Romney VFW Speech, Foreign Trip Shows Him at Odds with Veterans, Allies & Security Interests*
On July 24, Mitt Romney addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nevada as a precursor to his first foreign policy tour, to include the United Kingdom, Israel and Poland. Following Romney’s speech, experts from the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), National Security Network (NSN) and VoteVets held a press call to discuss why Romney’s slogan-heavy, solution-light plans are at odds with our veterans, our allies and our long-term security interests.
Former deputy secretary of defense Rudy deLeon, CAP Action Vice President for National Security and International Policy; NSN Executive Director Heather Hurlburt, former State Department and White House policy staff and speechwriter; CAP Action Senior Fellow Brian Katulis, Middle East and South Asia expert; and VoteVets Chairman Jon Soltz, two-time Iraq War veteran, reacted to Romney’s speech and scheduled meetings with foreign leaders along the tour, as contrasted with his record, important national security questions he refuses to answer, and previous statements regarding his stance on Pentagon spending, U.S. military and diplomatic engagement in the Middle East, relationships with our allies and America’s strategic priorities.
Despite planning to lay out his own foreign policy vision, Gov. Romney’s efforts to distinguish himself from President Obama failed. CAP Action Senior Fellow Brian Katulis stated: “It was heavy on heated political rhetoric and that rhetoric was used by the governor to really mask the fact that he agrees with a lot of what President Obama has done in the world. He essentially—on many issues—staked out a position of ‘me too’ with Obama…He hints at, in his rhetoric that there’s a difference there, that he would listen to military commanders on the ground, but that’s precisely what President Obama has done here in setting a strategy for bringing the war to a close in Afghanistan…Governor Romney really has not offered any new ideas as to what he would do differently in Egypt…He ignored the fact that Obama has actually stood by Israel repeatedly when it’s been under attack, whether it’s from rocket fire from the Gaza strip or under attack in the United Nations when we saw the Palestinian authority trying to push through an independence measure in the UN General Assembly. The United States and President Obama stood with Israel and has repeatedly stood by Israel, both militarily and on the issues related to broader security, including Iran.”
VoteVets Chairman and two-time Iraq War veteran Jon Soltz noted Romney’s lack of focus on issues affecting servicemen and women: “It’s rather offensive that someone who thinks they can be president can stand up in front of a group of veterans and not talk about veterans’ issues . …When you stand up there and talk about leaks from the White House and not about the fact that there’s a suicide epidemic amongst returning veterans, an unemployment crisis and you know the fact that there’s 80 to 90,000 U.S. troops currently in combat in Afghanistan—you offer no vision for that—it’s frankly offensive. I understand he’s out of touch. … I think his lack of understanding of what’s important to veterans shows. I would have appreciated some insight into his support of the Paul Ryan budget, which cuts $11 billion in spending – a 13 percent cut from what the president is proposing at a time we’ve got obviously backlogs.”
CAP Senior Vice President for National Security and International Policy and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy deLeon pushed back on Romney’s comments regarding defense cuts: “On the question of arbitrary across the board cuts, the sequestration, I think there’s a violent agreement between the governor and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Secretary Panetta has really be straightforward and on the record countlessly that the country needs a better path on the budget side than sequestration. And the cuts that were mandate by the previous congressional agreement to reduce defense spending by about $400 billion in the next 13 years really are only limits to the rates of inflation that follow a period from 2001 to 2012 that have really been unconstrained contrasted defense spending, contrasted with the bipartisan period of ’87 to 2001 that created the balanced budget, and I would also note, left our military capabilities ready to respond immediately after 9/11.“
NSN Executive Director Heather Hurlburt, former State Department and White House policy planning staff and speechwriter, commented on Romney’s decision to devote more time to assigning blame for the national security leaks than laying out his proposals to deal with the war in Afghanistan, the situation in Iraq or the worsening European economic crisis: “We heard a lot of campaign trail rhetoric but not really very much policy about serious issues. I think one thing that I want to be sure to mention is – it’s more than a little surprising to see his discussion of national security leaks take up more space than his discussion of the war in Afghanistan where we have more than 80,000 servicemembers on the ground; to see, again, a discussion of leaks and no discussion of the economic crisis in Europe. And, you know, again, I think you’ve all seen Senator Feinstein has said that he misquoted or misused her comments about the leak. And again while Senator Feinstein is doing her job in pursuing that issue but it’s surprising that someone who took the positions that Romney took during the Bush administration would see that as a ‘crisis’ of top billing in a speech that didn’t mention the European economic crisis, didn’t mention Iraq.”
- Romney’s National Security Team Is Like the Second Voyage of the Titanic, Center for American Progress Action Fund, 10/7/11
- 6 Reasons America Is Safer Under Obama, Center for American Progress Action Fund, 5/2/12
- Panetta’s Trimmed Defense Budget Is a Good First Step, Center for American Progress, 1/27/12
- Obama’s Leaner National Security Strategy Got the Job Done in 2011, Center for American Progress, 1/23/12
- Talking to the Taliban is in America’s Interest, National Security Network, 1/19/12
- No Ideas: Expert-Checking Romney’s Foreign Policy Speech, National Security Network, 10/7/11
- Romney’s Record Doesn’t Meet His Rhetoric, As Presidential Candidate Prepares To Address VFW, VoteVets, 7/23/12
- NEW VIDEO: If You Liked the Iraq War, You’ll Love Romney’s Foreign Policy, Americans United for Change, 7/24/12