By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times –
WASHINGTON — It may be early in the general election contest for the White House, but Mitt Romney has nott been pulling punches in his assessment of President Barack Obama in recent weeks — and he was blunt when asked Thursday to grade Obama’s first term.
“Oh, an ‘F,’ no question about that,” Romney told CBS News political correspondent Jan Crawford. “Across the board.”
Crawford pressed the former Massachusetts governor about whether he would hold to that rating of Obama even after the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden.
“When I look at foreign policy,” Romney said, “and I look at his decisions across the board in foreign policy, I look at the fact that he was looking to have a force of American troops staying in Iraq, securing what had been so won there, with a status of forces agreement. He failed to achieve it.”
Romney was referring to the fact that Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not reach an agreement on the presence of U.S. troops after the previous pact expired in 2011.
“I look at what’s happening in the Middle East — the Arab Spring has become the Arab winter — that’s hardly a success, so as I look around the world, I happen to believe that his positions in foreign policy have not communicated strength and resolve,” Romney told CBS News.
Speaking with reporters earlier Thursday across the street from the shuttered Fremont, Calif., headquarters of the solar company Solyndra, Romney argued that the Obama administration had been too slow to take action against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“It’s important for us to take whatever action we can as leader of the free world to help move Syria from being dominated by a ruthless tyrant who is killing thousands of his own people,” Romney said. “And that would include working with Saudi Arabia and Turkey to encourage them to be arming those that are combating the current tyrant, and also provide hopefully places of safety for people inside the country to protect them from … the kinds of attacks which occurred by their own government, by tanks from their own military.”
Romney noted that Syria had strong ties to Iran, and he criticized Obama for standing behind the peace place brokered by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan, which many opponents view as ineffective, particularly after the massacre of more than 100 people, many of them children, last weekend in Houla.
“America is not a nation which characteristically leads from behind. We lead,” Romney said in Fremont. He said he did not support “the idea of simply following the Kofi Annan peace plan; that has not gotten us to a point where people in Syria are safe.”
Romney said he would favor an approach that could “make sure that the insurgents have the capacity they need to protect themselves and to execute regime change.”
During his California visit, the beginning of a four-day fundraising swing, Romney won the backing of former first lady Nancy Reagan.
Reagan said in a statement that Romney and his wife, Ann, had met with her at her home and that she had offered her “firm endorsement” of Romney’s candidacy over lemonade and cookies.
She said her husband, the late President Ronald Reagan, “would have liked Gov. Romney’s business background and his strong principles, and I have to say I do too.”
“I believe Mitt Romney has the experience and leadership skills that our country so desperately needs, and I look forward to seeing him elected president in November,” Reagan said.