By Reid Wilson - 06/01/09 02:34 PM EDT
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) accused President Obama of embarking on a "tour of apology" around the globe at the expense of America's national security.
"It's not because America hasn't made mistakes — we have," the former Republican presidential contender said, explaining his criticism, "but because America's mistakes are overwhelmed by what America has meant to the hopes and aspirations of people throughout the world."
"That would be a most unfortunate distinction at any time," Romney said. "But it is particularly so today. With all that is transpiring in the world, in Iran, North Korea, Georgia, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan [and] Afghanistan, this is the time for strength and confidence, not for apologizing to America's critics."
Kicking off the conservative Heritage Foundation's "Protect America" month, Romney addressed a largely friendly crowd as he continues to explore a repeat bid for the White House. Romney allies insist the governor is undecided about a second run and is not even thinking about it, but behind the scenes the former Massachusetts governor is building a foundation that could launch an encore bid.
Like most governors, Romney found himself lacking in foreign affairs credentials during his White House bid. In establishing himself as a deep thinker on national security and foreign policy, Romney sought to fill a key gap.
He highlighted missile defense, a program that has dragged on for more than two decades without reaching completion. President Obama has said he does not support continuing the program.
"Rarely in history has any program had the promise to do more good or spare more suffering than a system of missile defense," Romney said. "Backing away from missile defense and depleting the defense budget to fund new social programs, particularly in the face of global turmoil, would put America and Americans at risk."
Romney also called for an increase of at least $50 billion in the Defense Department's modernization budget, to be used to improve the nation's nuclear arsenal and to upgrade the military's tracked vehicles and tanks.
Romney advocated for a more aggressive stance toward international threats, especially North Korea. He called diplomatic negotiations a ploy that has allowed the rogue nation to build up its nuclear capabilities.
During his presidential race, Romney drew heavily on his experience as a businessman, and on the day General Motors filed for bankruptcy, he said he had called for those steps to be taken.
"It is, by the way, a course I recommended a number of months ago," Romney said of GM's filings. "As a boy from Detroit, I'm still saddened by that."
Following the end of his presidential race, in February of last year, Romney has spent the past year campaigning for Republican candidates around the country. Over the last week he has campaigned with Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell and with Chris Christie, who faces a primary on Tuesday in the New Jersey governor's race.
The former Massachusetts governor has also kept a loyal following of staffers close at hand. Several former top staffers and supporters, including ex-Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), attended the speech.
Romney, who remains active in the so-called invisible primary in advance of a potential 2012 bid, appearing with fellow Republicans around the country and taking a turn on "Fox News Sunday" this weekend, will again raise his profile early next year with the scheduled release of a new book.
The governor has signed on with St. Martin's Press for the volume, scheduled to be released in early 2010.