Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times –
BOSTON — Mitt Romney credited Barack Obama for making America safer, but said the president had not done enough to counter the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons.
The Republican candidate is preparing for the fall debates. He spent several days engaged in mock sessions with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in Vermont last week and was to return to that work Sunday. One major vulnerability that he is tackling is foreign policy, which has never been a central focus for the former Massachusetts governor or his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
During his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last week, Obama mocked Romney and Ryan as “new to foreign policy” and said they “want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.” Alluding to Romney’s assertion in March that Russia is America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe,” Obama also said his rival was “stuck in a Cold War mind warp.”
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Romney said Obama has had “some successes and he’s had some failures.”
When Gregory asked whether the United States was safer or less safe as a result of Obama’s leadership, Romney said America was in “some ways safer.”
“Getting rid of Osama bin Laden — I think (that was) a success on the part of the president,” Romney said. “Authorizing SEAL Team Six, commanding SEAL Team Six to take him out. That was a great accomplishment. Using the drones to strike at Al-Qaida targets. I think those are positive developments.”
But he said Obama had not done enough to stop Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and sharply criticized the president’s approach toward Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“President Obama had a policy of engagement with Ahmadinejad,” said Romney, who has argued that Obama should have moved more quickly to impose severe economic sanctions on Iran. “That policy has not worked, and we’re closer to a nuclear weapon as a result of that. I will have a very different approach with regards to Iran. And it’s an approach which, by the way, the president’s finally getting closer to. It begins with crippling sanctions. That should have been put in place long ago.”
Romney did not offer any new details about how he would pay for his plans to cut taxes for middle-income Americans while also cutting federal spending significantly.
“High-income taxpayers are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions. Those numbers are going to come down. Otherwise they’d get a tax break,” Romney replied. “And I want to make sure people understand, despite what the Democrats said at their convention, I am not reducing taxes on high-income taxpayers.”
The Obama campaign has used Romney’s lack of specificity to argue that he might do away with popular deductions, such as the mortgage interest deduction.
Obama, on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said Romney’s call for spending cuts without a plan to create higher revenues wasn’t mathematically possible.
“Gov. Romney said he wouldn’t take a deal with $10 of spending cuts for $1 of revenue increases. And the problem is the math — or the arithmetic, as President Clinton said — doesn’t add up,” Obama said.
The president said he would offer a more balanced approach than the Republican ticket if he wins a second term — one that would work toward making government leaner, but also ask upper-income Americans like himself and Romney “to do a little bit more.”
Romney said on “Meet the Press” that he would balance the federal budget by the end of his second term — stating that trying to accomplish that in four years would be “too dramatic” in terms of its effect on the economy. And he insisted he would be willing to make unpopular choices if elected.
“I could not care less about my political prospects. I want to become president of the United States to get this country on the right track again,” Romney said. “We’ve got to put Americans back to work. And politics, whether I’m highly favored, not highly favored, just doesn’t enter into the equation.”