Campaigns spar ahead of Romney's foreign policy speech

The new Obama ad skewers Romney for missteps during his trip to Britain, Israel and Poland this summer and his initial response to recent violent anti-American protests in the Middle East.

“Even Republican experts said Romney's remarks [blasting the Cairo embassy's criticism of a U.S.-made anti-Islam film] were the 'worst possible reaction' to what happened,” the new ad says, quoting John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign adviser Anthony Cordesman. “If this is how he handles the world now, just think of what Mitt Romney might do as president.”

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Democrats also released a lengthy memo to reporters that seeks to raise the bar for how well Romney must do. The memo, from Obama advisers Michèle Flournoy and Colin Kahl, says Romney must provide more specifics on what he would do differently with regards to Afghanistan, Iran and al Qaeda than he has in a half-dozen other speeches over the past year.

“Since the beginning of this campaign, we have repeatedly pressed Mitt Romney to outline specific ideas about the biggest foreign policy challenges our nation is facing today. We’ve asked him to move beyond swagger and slogans to an actual strategy,” the memo says. “But so far, he has failed to answer any of these questions. Today, when Mitt Romney gives his seventh speech on foreign policy issues, he has a chance to finally tell the American people what he would do as commander-in-chief, and to outline an alternative vision that voters can consider when making their choice this November. We’ll see if he’s up to the challenge.”

The Romney campaign responded, building up the foreign policy speech, which the candidate’s advisers said would lay out specific examples of how he would have handled recent issues differently than Obama.

The Romney camp for its part also sought to build expectations for the speech, which is scheduled to be delivered at 11:20 a.m. Monday at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.

“After nearly four years in office, President Obama’s foreign policy is unraveling and America’s safety and security is threatened,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement ahead of the speech. “Iran is marching toward nuclear weapons capability and mobs have threatened our embassies abroad. And while our enemies have grown stronger, the President has left our nation’s closest ally in the Middle East, Israel, increasingly isolated. As president, Mitt Romney will restore our nation’s leadership in the world and reverse President Obama’s policies of weakness and decline.”

Romney’s speech will hit the administration’s response to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. 

“The administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West,” Romney will say.

The GOP nominee will also pledge to “vigorously pursue the terrorists who attacked our consulate in Benghazi and killed Americans.”

The Obama campaign, though, is accusing Romney of seeking to politicize the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans on the anniversary of Sept. 11.

“Governor Romney’s unseemly response to the tragic murder of our ambassador in Libya raises further questions about his judgment on national security issues,” said the campaign’s memo. “Let’s acknowledge first that international crises happen during every administration, and the real question for voters is who they want to be commander-in-chief when they do. And the clear choice in this election was brought into stark relief when the situation in Benghazi unfolded.”

The Obama team memo also accuses Romney of being to the right of George W. Bush on foreign policy.

“He supported the Iraq war and said that removing all of our troops from Iraq was 'tragic,' he called Russia -- not al Qaeda -- our 'number one geopolitical foe,' and he said that he wouldn’t have set a timeline to end the war in Afghanistan. Those aren’t policies, those are misguided talking points – and the American people deserve more from someone running to be commander-in-chief,” the memo reads. “Today’s latest effort to reboot and reset the Romney foreign policy doesn’t change the fact that he’s repeatedly taken positions outside of the mainstream and often to the right of even George W. Bush.

The Romney campaign dismissed those charges and said its candidate intended to draw a clear distinction with the foreign policy missteps of Obama’s term, in particular on Afghanistan.

Romney will argue for a “real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014,” accusing the administration of adhering to a politically-expedient timeline for withdrawal.

“President Obama would have you believe that anyone who disagrees with his decisions in Afghanistan is arguing for endless war. But the route to more war – and to potential attacks here at home – is a politically timed retreat that abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11,” Romney will say.