By Justin Sink
The campaign went on to critique Romney on each stop of his trip, giving particular focus to his visit to Israel. Last month, Romney told reporters during his bus tour he would do "the opposite" of Obama in regard to the Middle Eastern ally, a sentiment the Obama team challenged.
"Frankly all we've gotten from Romney to this point is tough talk, while the actual substance that he put forward, whether on sanctions or military preparedness, mirrors exactly precisely what President Obama has already done," said Colin Kahl, the former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for the Middle East.
Kahl added that Obama would visit Israel if elected to a second term, but called Republican criticism of the president's decision not to travel there "basically a distraction."
"Being a friend to Israel, at least in our view, shouldn't be judged purely by a travel itinerary," Kahl said. "The president has been to Israel multiple times, but more than that he's backed up his words with feats."
Questioned about Romney's personal ties to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — the pair worked together at a consulting firm in their early adult lives — Kahl pointed to Netanyahu's Sunday show interviews over the weekend where the Israeli leader repeatedly declined to weigh in on the American election.
"He basically avoided saying anything about Gov. Romney, so I think in that case Netanyahu thinks we're right, and thinks the politics of this are less relevant than the substance," said Kahl. "I think it's incumbent upon Gov. Romney to try to criticize what the president's actually done — I think that's hard."
The Obama team also used the occasion of Romney's trip to Poland to knock his statement earlier this year that Russia was twithout question our number one geopolitical foe." Michele Flournoy, the former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for policy, said Romney would have to explain his "Cold War thinking" — especially considering Russian territory was used as a launching pad for missions in Afghanistan.
"Will Romney repeat that kind of rhetoric when he lands in Warsaw?" Flournoy said.
In a statement released Monday, the Romney campaign doubled down on their attacks on Obama for not visiting Israel, and lobbed criticism at the president for his hot mic moment in a meeting with Russian leaders where he indicated he could better deal with controversial missile defense issues after the election.
“President Obama thinks visiting our closest ally in the Middle East is a ‘distraction,’ that Hugo Chavez is not a ‘serious’ threat, and that the right response to Russia is to promise more ‘flexibility’ in exchange for giving him ‘space’ before the election," said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. "It is clear that President Obama’s foreign policy is confused, ineffective, and has weakened our influence in every region of the world.”
The Romney campaign also predictably disagreed with the Obama team's framing of the president's foreign policy record.
"In no region of the world is our country’s influence any stronger than it was four years ago," said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. "President Obama has failed to restore our economy, is weakening our military with devastating defense cuts, and has diminished our moral authority. Governor Romney will restore the pillars of American strength to secure our interests and defend our values.”
Romney's first stop on his trip is a visit Thursday to London, where he plans to meet with leaders of the British Parliament. On Friday, Romney will attend the Olympic Games' Opening Ceremony.