Mitt Romney holds a news conference after a town hall meeting with local… (Cheryl Senter/AP )
Reporting from Wolfeboro, N.H. — Before setting off on a fundraising trip to London on Tuesday night, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney made two last stops in New Hampshire where he belittled President Obama’s approach to foreign policy, accusing him of “speaking loudly and carrying a small stick.”
Fielding questions from voters at a town-hall-style meeting in his vacation hometown of Wolfeboro in the state’s Lakes Region, Romney was asked for his views on Obama’s approach to Iran by former Rep. Jeb Bradley, who cited a recent news report that Iran is supporting rebels in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Romney argued that Obama had been unable to deliver on his campaign promise to engage Iran’s leaders and had not heeded President Theodore Roosevelt’s motto for the United States to “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
“I’m afraid too often the president speaks loudly and carries a small stick,” Romney said to applause at the Bayside Grill and Tavern in Wolfeboro. He said he favored “crippling sanctions” on Iran and suggested that the president had been too accommodating of Russia, which is more closely allied with Iran and permissive of its nuclear program.
Romney said as president he would let Iran “know the military option is on the table.”
“When you take your military option off the table, you take away the big stick and then all you have is big words, and words don’t always get bad people to do good things,” Romney said.
The former Massachusetts governor also criticized Obama’s effort in Libya, calling it “mission creep” and “mission muddle.”
Launching his critique of Obama’s economic policy earlier in his remarks, Romney said the nation had elected “a very nice fellow” but was now seeing the cost of electing someone who did not have a prior leadership role.
“There were some people in that last campaign who said, 'I wonder what would happen if we elect as a president someone who doesn’t have any experience,' and now we know,” Romney said to laughter.
At both his Wolfeboro event and a later at a roundtable with business owners in Hampton, Romney renewed his charge that Obama made the recession worse while acknowledging that the president did not cause the recession.
Calling the recovery “extraordinarily anemic,” Romney said that Obama “made a series of decisions that hurt the economy at the time it needed to be taking off.”
Instead of creating private-sector jobs, Romney argued, the administration’s $787 billion stimulus package generated government jobs: “We have more people in government working than we would have had without that stimulus.
“The right answer for America would have been not to create more government jobs, but to create more private-sector jobs,” he said.