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Romney hits Obama for calling Middle East troubles 'bumps in road'

September 24, 2012|By Seema Mehta

PUEBLO, Colo. -- Mitt Romney assailed President Obama for calling the unrest in the Middle East “bumps in the road,” saying Monday that the remarks show how different their views are on foreign policy and the president’s lack of leadership on the world stage.

“Bumps in the road, we had an ambassador assassinated. We had a Muslim Brotherhood … member elected to the presidency of Egypt. Twenty thousand people have been killed in Syria. We have tumult in Pakistan and of course Iran is that much closer to having the capacity to build a nuclear weapon,” Romney told about 1,600 people at a rally on the tarmac here. “These are not bumps in the road, these are human lives, these are developments we do not want to see.

“This is [the] time for a president who will shape events in the Middle East, not just be merciful or be at the mercy of the events of the Middle East. I will get America on track to have the kind of leadership we need so we can shape the future of this part of the world and keep America strong.”

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Romney was referring to a statement that Obama made during an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday. He was asked whether he had any doubts about American-backed governments that have come into power in the Middle East given recent events in the region.

“I think it was absolutely the right thing for us to do to align ourselves with democracy, universal rights, a notion that people have  to be able to participate in their own governance,” he said. “But I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama had been referring to the transitions taking place in the region, and called Romney’s remarks “desperate and offensive.” An Obama campaign spokeswoman accused Romney of politicizing an international crisis for personal gain.

“He’s purposely misinterpreting the president’s words and making reckless statements about the death of four Americans in Libya, apparently for the sole purpose of his own political gain,” said spokeswoman Lis Smith. “Using this incident to launch political attacks should be beneath someone seeking to be our nation’s commander in chief.”

Romney pushed the matter throughout the day, on interviews with the television networks and at the rally.

“Look, the world looks at the event going on – they don’t see these events as bumps in the road. These are lives. This is humanity. This is freedom. Freedom must be on the march. We must stand for freedom,” Romney said.

After a week of travails, Romney’s advisors on Monday announced a new stage in the campaign, in which the GOP nominee will highlight policy details, starting with energy and trade. But during his rally, Romney did not mention these policies any more than he usually does as part of a five-point job creation plan. But Romney did seek to articulate the differences the nation would see if he assumed the presidency.

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“We can do better than this president. I will do better than this president has done for the American people,” Romney said. “This matters.... It matters not just for the 23 million that are searching for a better job; it matters also for these young people as you know that are wondering whether they're going to have a bright future. It matters for every mom and dad who are concerned that their child might not enjoy the kind of prosperity and peace that we've known. This matters for us, it also matters for the world.”

He used troubling economic indicators over the last four years to argue that Americans would see more of the same if Obama is reelected.

“If you’re convinced that the last four years are not what we want for the next four years …  I need you to go out and convince some of your friends who voted for Barack Obama to get on our team and take a new direction in America,” Romney said. “This is our time. We’ve got to take this country back; we’ve got to put it on a new road to prosperity and to strength. I will do it, with your help.”

Asked why he wasn’t doing better in the presidential campaign given the nation’s economic difficulties -- national  polling has been tight and the Republican is losing ground in swing states polling -- Romney said he was confident that he would win in November.

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“I'm very pleased with the fact that we have a campaign that is taking our message to the people across America and look we're gonna win, there is no question in my mind. We're gonna win,” Romney told NBC’s Peter Alexander. “The polls go up, polls go down, there’ve been some weeks I am ahead, some weeks I am behind.

“You know, all these states that voted for Barack Obama the last time, right now the majority of people in those states are saying that they don't want to vote for Barack Obama. My job is to make sure they understand what I stand for, they understand the path forward I would take if I do that well, I’ll be elected President and I expect to do it well.”

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Seema.mehta@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATSeema

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