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Romney credits Obama for making U.S. safer, blasts record on Iran

September 09, 2012|By Maeve Reston
  • In this file photo, Mitt Romney appears on stage during a campaign event in Lakeland, Fla.
In this file photo, Mitt Romney appears on stage during a campaign event… (Mary Altaffer / Associated…)

BOSTON — Mitt Romney, in an NBC interview airing Sunday, credited President Obama for taking steps to make America safer but said his Democratic rival had not done enough to counter the threat of a nuclear Iran.

The Republican candidate is in the midst of intensive preparations for the fall debates. He spent several days engaged in mock sessions with Ohio Sen. Rob Portman in Vermont last week and plans to return to that work Sunday afternoon at his headquarters in Boston. One major vulnerability that he is tackling is foreign policy, which has never been a central focus for the former Massachusetts governor or his running mate House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).

During his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last week, Obama mocked Romney and Ryan as “new to foreign policy” and said they “want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.” Alluding to Romney’s assertion in March that Russia is America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe,” Obama also said his rival was “stuck in a Cold War mind warp.”

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In an extensive interview that aired on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Romney told  show host David Gregory that Obama has had “some successes and he's had some failures.”

When Gregory asked whether the United States was safer or less safe as a result of Obama’s leadership, Romney said America was in “some ways safer.”

“Getting rid of Osama bin Laden — I think [that was] a success on the part of the president,” Romney said. “Authorizing SEAL Team Six, commanding SEAL Team Six to take him out. That was a great accomplishment. Using the drones to strike at Al Qaeda targets. I think those are positive developments.”

But he said Obama had not done enough to halt Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon and sharply criticized the president’s approach toward Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“President Obama had a policy of engagement with Ahmadinejad,” said Romney, who has argued that Obama should have moved more quickly to impose severe economic sanctions on Iran. “That policy has not worked, and we’re closer to a nuclear weapon as a result of that. I will have a very different approach with regards to Iran. And it’s an approach which, by the way, the president’s finally getting closer to. It begins with crippling sanctions. That should have been put in place long ago.”

During his appearance on "Meet the Press," Romney did not offer any new details about how he would pay for his plans to cut taxes for middle-income Americans while also dramatically cutting federal spending. Gregory pressed Romney for just one example of a tax loophole that he would close.

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“High-income taxpayers are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions. Those numbers are going to come down. Otherwise they'd get a tax break,” Romney replied. “And I want to make sure people understand, despite what the Democrats said at their convention, I am not reducing taxes on high-income taxpayers.”

The Obama campaign has used Romney’s lack of specificity to argue that he might do away with popular deductions, such as the mortgage interest deduction. After the Sunday shows, Obama advisor David Axelrod tweeted, “Mitt and Ryan again stubbornly refuse to offer details on how they would pay for $5 trillion tax cut, skewed to wealthy.”

During an interview with CBS that aired Sunday, President Obama said his rival’s call for spending cuts without a plan to create higher revenues wasn’t mathematically possible.

“Gov. Romney said he wouldn't take a deal with $10 of spending cuts for $1 of revenue increases.  And the problem is the math — or the arithmetic, as President Clinton said — doesn't add up,” Obama said during a taped interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Obama argued that he would offer a more balanced approach than the Republican ticket if he wins a second term — one that would work toward making government leaner, but also ask upper-income Americans like himself and Romney “to do a little bit more.”

For his part, Romney said on “Meet the Press” that he would balance the federal budget by the end of his second term — stating that trying to accomplish that in four years would be “too dramatic” in terms of its effect on the economy. And he insisted he would be willing to make unpopular choices if elected.

“I could not care less about my political prospects. I want to become president of the United States to get this country on the right track again,” Romney said. “We've got to put Americans back to work. And politics, whether I'm highly favored, not highly favored, just doesn't enter into the equation.”

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

Twitter: @maevereston

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