Foreign policy has taken center stage in the U.S. presidential election campaign as the presumptive Republican Party nominee, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, embarks on an overseas trip designed to bolster his foreign policy and defense credentials with American voters.
Much of this campaign has focused on President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy. But Republican Mitt Romney sought to change the subject this week with a foreign policy address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nevada.
“I am an unapologetic believer in the greatness of America. I am not ashamed of American power," he said.
Romney unleashed a withering critique of President Obama’s foreign policy record that accused the Democratic administration of not being tough enough with Iran, China and Russia, and not being supportive enough of Israel. “I will not surrender America’s leadership in the world. We must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might," he said.
The Romney speech came one day after President Obama spoke to the same group and highlighted his record, including an end to the war in Iraq, the winding down of the war in Afghanistan and the killing of al-Qaida terror leader Osama bin Laden.
“Because we’re leading around the world, people have a new attitude toward America. There is more confidence in our leadership. We see it across the globe. And when people are asked, 'Which country do you admire the most?' one nation comes out on top, the United States of America," he said.
The dueling speeches on foreign policy come as Mitt Romney sets off on a trip to Britain, Israel and Poland that analysts say is intended to bolster his credentials as a potential president and commander in chief of the armed forces.
Obama campaign advisor Robert Gibbs spoke about the Romney trip during a conference call with reporters. “I think this trip should be judged on the type of substantive ideas that Mitt Romney outlines and whether he would continue the proven policies of President Obama or return us to a time in which our foreign policy was a sore spot, quite honestly, in the world," he said.
During his trip, Romney will spend time in Britain for the opening of the Summer Olympic Games and then travel to Israel, where he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Romney has been sharply critical of what he calls the Obama administration’s shabby treatment of Israel.
Dan Senor, a foreign policy advisor to the Romney campaign, spoke about the issue in a conference call with reporters. “President Obama pursued a policy in his term that sought daylight, his words, not mine, that sought to put daylight between the United States and Israel, and that somehow that would win over support for America in the Middle East," he said.
Public opinion surveys suggest that foreign policy issues will not play a crucial role in this year’s presidential election, which will likely be dominated by the economy. The polls also show that foreign policy is a strength for the president, while Romney gets higher ratings for how he would handle the nation's economy.