America should crack down on threats from without and classified information leaks from within, Republican presidential presumptive nominee Mitt Romney told an enthusiastic crowd at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev. Tuesday afternoon.
During his speech, Romney referred casually to his 2011 appearance at the convention, underscoring his fidelity to the veterans‚?? demographic. Obama, who addressed the audience Monday, last appeared at the convention in 2008.
The Republican challenger received his first standing ovation minutes into the speech, when he mentioned apparent leaks of classified information, including detailed descriptions of cyber-warfare against Iran and targeted drone strikes made public in the pages of the New York Times. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) supplied added ammunition Monday, when she said it was clear that at least some of the leaked information was coming from White House ranks.
Romney called for a special independent counsel to look into the leaks and said he wanted to see the source of the privileged information ‚??exposed, dismissed, and punished.‚?Ě
‚??This isn‚??t a partisan issue,‚?Ě he said. ‚??It‚??s a national security crisis.‚?Ě
Romney briefly condemned the move to cut the Defense budget through sequestration, laying at the president‚??s feet the blame for winnowing the department during a time of increased national security threats.
‚??The devastation would begin at home,‚?Ě Romney said.
In foreign policy, Romney accused Obama of slighting allies — he mentioned walking back an agreement with the Czech Republic and Poland for a missile defense site and cavalier treatment of Israeli leaders — and pandering to hostile powers. Romney mentioned Obama‚??s ‚??hot mic‚?Ě moment this spring when he asked then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for more time so that he could have flexibility to discuss missile defense matters after the election.
‚??Why is it that flexibility with Russian leaders is more important to him than transparency with the American people?‚?Ě Romney said.
Romney said he would crack down on China‚??s unfair trade practices and work to promote peace and prosperity in an unstable Egypt, but he saved his strongest rhetoric for Iran, promising to put an end to all enrichment of uranium happening in the country, for whatever purpose.
‚??We will use any means necessary to protect ourselves and the region and to prevent the worst from happening while there‚??s still time,‚?Ě he said. ‚??The surest path to danger is always weakness and indecision. In the end, it‚??s always resolve that moves events in our direction.‚?Ě
Romney included little pandering to veterans in his address, opting instead to publicly reiterate a hawkish foreign policy plan, rooted in American exceptionalism.
‚??I believe that America is the greatest force for good the world has ever known and that our influence is needed now as never before,‚?Ě he said to applause from the crowd.
Military veterans may well play a critical role in deciding this year‚??s presidential race as a strong percentage of the population in key swing states such as Virginia and North Carolina.
Of the two candidates, Obama has much more ground to make up in the demographic: according to a Rasmussen Poll released last weekend, Romney leads the president almost two-to-one in support from veterans.
The survey of 574 likely voters, conducted the first week of July, found that 59 percent of likely voters who had military service favored Romney, while only 35 percent preferred Obama.
This means Romney hasn‚??t ceded an inch in the demographic since Gallup polled veterans at 59 to 34 percent for Romney in mid-May.