Romney moves focus to economy with tribute to Poland's steady rise

Mitt Romney capped his six-day trip abroad on Tuesday with a tribute to Poland that attempted to shift his focus back to the economy after foreign-policy missteps during preceding stops in Britain and Israel.

Speaking in Warsaw after meeting with Poland's president and foreign minister, Romney drew parallels between Poland's history of standing up to fascism and communism and the country's strong economic performance even as other European countries unravel from the ongoing debt crisis. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Romney's comments follow his endorsement by anti-communist leader and former President Lech Walesa, who once famously said that "Reagan should have a monument in every city."

“This is a country that made a prisoner a president … that went from foreign domination to the proud and independent nation you are today,” Romney said, referring to Walesa. 

“And now, for both our nations, the challenge is to be worthy of this legacy as we find a way forward. The false gods of the all-powerful state claim the allegiance of a lonely few,” he said. “It is for us, in this generation and beyond, to show all the world what free people and free economies can achieve for the good of all.

“This nation's steady rise is a shining example of the prosperity that economic opportunity can bring. Your nation has moved from a state monopoly over the economy, price controls and severe trade restrictions to a culture of entrepreneurship, greater fiscal responsibility and international trade,” said Romney, praising Poland’s economic revival.

In comments aimed squarely at Polish Catholic voters back home, Romney promised that “Poland has no greater friend and ally than the people of the United States.” He also had high praise for one of Poland's most famous sons, Pope John Paul II. 

“John Paul II understood that a nation is not a flag or a plot of land,” Romney said. “It is a people — a community of values. And the highest value Poland honors — to the world's great fortune — is man's innate desire to be free.”

Romney went on to single out specific countries he said weren't living up to that standard — Belarus, Syria, Venezuela and Russia — and held up Poland as an “example and defender of freedom.”

And he quoted Condoleezza Rice, sparking renewed speculation that he might be considering the former secretary of State to be his running mate in November.

“Time and again, history has recorded the ascent of liberty, propelled by souls that yearn for freedom and justice,” Romney said. “Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has noted that it is often one brave man or woman who says no to oppression, and in doing so, sparks a revolution of courage in hundreds, thousands or millions of others.”

Romney's visit to Poland is the last stop in a three-nation overseas trip plagued by controversy.

Romney was forced to walk back comments questioning London's preparedness to host the Olympic Games, and a remark comparing the economic success of Israel to Palestine drew charges of "racism" from a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. 

Obama's campaign used the controversies to question Romney's foreign-policy "preparedness." 

“He’s now been to two countries and he’s had two countries where he has made a series of fumbles," deputy campaign press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

Romney, though, received a boost in his meeting with former Polish President Lech Walesa, who all but endorsed the GOP candidate. 

“I wish you to be successful, because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too,” Walesa told Romney at the end of their meeting Monday. “Gov. Romney, get your success — be successful.”