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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Mitt Romney took up the cudgels again against Russia on Monday, telling a radio interviewer that “almost everything we try to do globally, they try and oppose.” He accused President Obama, once again, of going soft on his Russian counterparts.
The Obama campaign has ridiculed Romney for saying earlier this year that Russia was “without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe.” Asked about that during a telephone interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Romney neither repeated his claim nor backed down from it.
“Russia is a geopolitical adversary, meaning that almost everything we try to do globally they try and oppose,” he said. “So we try and put pressure on Iran, they fought against crippling sanctions. We tried to get tough language at the U.N. and action against the brutality of [President Bashar] Assad in Syrian, they instead send attack helicopters to Syria. I mean, Russia has been opposing us in political circles for some time.
“And I was appalled that the president said to [Russia's then-President Dmitri] Medvedev, just wait till after the election when I have more flexibility. How is it that he has flexibility with Russia he won’t tell the American people about? My own view is that Russia has a very different agenda than ours and that we ought to recognize that, and that we should pursue our interests, but recognize Russia as having a different course.”
Romney's comments about Obama and Medvedev referred to the president's remarks, caught on an open microphone in March, in which he told his Russian counterpart, regarding negotiations on the placement of a missile defense system in Europe: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”
Romney was also asked about Obama's nonresponse to the Chicago teachers strike, in which the president's former chief of staff, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is a key player. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the president “has not expressed an opinion or made any assessment about this particular incident.”
“I think the president ought to stand up and say that we ought to put the kids first in this country and the teachers union goes behind,” Romney said, adding that “the teachers union is opposed to many of the reforms in education that we know are critical to the success of our kids.”
He said it was important to reward teachers for doing a good job, but that “we have to make sure that teachers are given an opportunity to be evaluated based upon the capability of their students.” This idea, which is one of the issues that prompted the strike in Chicago, is one in which Romney's view appears to be indistinguishable from that of Arne Duncan, Obama's education secretary.
Romney concluded: “I think you need to stand up and say, I am with the kids and I am with their parents and I am not with the teachers union.”
Landsberg reported from Lake Forest and Abcarian from Los Angeles.