Mitt Romney speaks to the American Legion National Convention in Indianapolis. (Evan Vucci / Associated…)
INDIANAPOLIS — Arguing that President Obama has diminished the nation’s standing in the world and impending defense cuts imperil its safety, Mitt Romney on Wednesday pledged to not seek to balance the budget by cutting military spending and to improve mental health access and education opportunities for service members and veterans.
“Paul Ryan and I have a plan to keep America strong and secure, prosperous and free,” Romney told thousands of veterans at an American Legion conference here. “Where the president has failed to lead, we will protect our national defense from cuts that jeopardize critical missions. Where he's let down our veterans, we will welcome them home to a blooming economy and the jobs they need. Where he's dodged the tough choices, we'll confront them head on and deliver a better future for Americans of this generation and the next.”
PHOTOS: Scenes from the GOP convention
Romney left the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday morning to make a brief trip here, and planned to head back in the early evening and then watch the Wednesday night convention speech of running mate Ryan from his hotel room.
“ … You may wonder why I’m not down there right now, practicing and polishing my final draft of my speech,” Romney said. “When our nation called, you answered. And I consider any opportunity to address our nation’s veterans a privilege not to be missed.”
After a tropical storm delayed the start of the convention, Romney joked he appreciated being on dry land. He also acknowledged the storm – now a hurricane -- made landfall in Louisiana on Tuesday night, the eve of the seven-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
“We're grateful that it appears that Isaac will spare them for the kind of damage we saw during Katrina. But for many in the gulf coast who just finished repairing their homes and getting their lives back to normal, this must be a heavy burden and so today our thoughts are with them, our prayers go out to them and our country must do all we can to help them recover,” Romney said.
Romney noted Obama told the same convention a year ago he would not balance the budget on the backs of veterans.
“Now he’s on the verge of breaking that promise,” he said. “The Obama administration is set to cut spending by nearly $1 trillion. My administration will not.”
PHOTOS: Paul Ryan's past
Left unsaid was that many of those cuts were approved by Republicans in Congress — including Ryan — in a deal that would go into effect in January if Congress fails to reach a budget deal.
The Obama campaign countered that the cuts could be avoided if Romney were willing to increase taxes on the wealthy.
“If Mitt Romney were truly serious about helping veterans, he’d tell Congressman Ryan and his Republican allies in Congress to work with the president to achieve a balanced deficit reduction plan that includes asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share while investing in veterans and the middle class, as the president’s plan does,” said spokeswoman Lis Smith. “The American people deserve more than empty rhetoric in a commander-in-chief.”