By Julian Pecquet - 10/23/12 02:27 AM EDT
President Obama called Mitt Romney's allegation that he went on an “apology tour” in his first year in office the “biggest whopper” of the campaign and proceeded to slam Romney for raising money during his trip to Israel this summer.
“If we're going to talk about trips that we've taken, when I was a candidate for office the first trip I took was to visit our troops. And when I went to Israel as a candidate I didn't take donors. I didn't attend fundraisers,” Obama said in a pointed jab at Romney's unprecedented fundraising trip to Jerusalem with casino mogul Sheldon Adelson this summer.
“Which is why as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles. So that's how I've used my travels,” Obama said.
Romney brought up Obama's Middle East tour, which Republicans have labeled an “apology tour,” as an example of the president emboldening Iran to pursue its nuclear weapons program by displaying weakness.
“I think they looked at that and saw weakness,” Romney said. “It's essential for a president to show strength from the very beginning.”
Both candidates have sought to establish their bona fides as the stronger champion of Israel in a bid to woo Jewish voters in swing states such as Florida.
During Obama's trip, Romney said, the president said that America had been “dismissive and derisive.”
“You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations,” Romney said. “America has not dictated to other nations; we have freed other nations from dictators.”
Obama said his administration has been able to get unprecedented sanctions against Iran through the United Nations by listening to other countries' concerns. He said Romney has not laid out any real alternative.