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White House spins Romney speech, does not address Libya failures

What appears to be missing is any defense or justification of Obama‚??s decision to wrongly claim that last month‚??s attacks in Libya were a reaction to an American-made amateur film satirizing Islam.

A measure of the significance of Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney‚??s foreign policy-themed address at the Virginia Military Institute Monday morning can be seen in the energy spent by President Barack Obama‚??s campaign to refute it even before it was delivered.

A day before the speech, campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told White House pool reporters that every previous Romney discussion of foreign policy has been an ‚??unmitigated disaster‚?Ě and she expected the same again. Following the address, Psaki called Romney‚??s talk ‚??chest-pounding rhetoric‚?Ě and resurrected the ‚??Etch-a-Sketch‚?Ě zinger to describe his strategy.

What appears to be missing, according to reports, is any defense or justification of Obama‚??s decision to wrongly claim, for weeks, that last month‚??s attacks in Benghazi, Libya that left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead were a reaction to an American-made amateur film satirizing Islam.

Romney connected the attacks to larger movements of Islamic extremism throughout the Middle East, saying it was likely that those who attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001 were also behind this recent episode of anti-American violence.

And though he said the responsibility for the American deaths in Libya lay solely with the rioting attackers, he added that the U.S. under Obama had not lived up to the nation‚??s tradition of principled leadership regarding the Middle East.

‚??It is the responsibility of our President to use America‚??s great power to shape history‚??not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events. Unfortunately, that is exactly where we find ourselves in the Middle East under President Obama,‚?Ě he said.

Detractors claimed Romney once again failed to cite specifics about his plans for foreign policy as president, but he did highlight a number of clear goals, from supporting new free trade agreements, a practice that has languished under Obama, to arming members of the Syrian opposition, to establishing a stricter set of qualifications for countries receiving U.S. aid, like Egypt. He reiterated plans announced a year ago in a speech at the Citadel to increase Navy shipbuilding from nine to 15 ships per year and to increase U.S. missile defense.

It‚??s clear now that Romney does not plan to address these issues in greater specificity while on the campaign trail, choosing to outline his strategy and philosophy in broad strokes and hawkish principles that have reminded many of George W. Bush‚??s policies. The question now is whether Romney can successfully keep pressure on the Obama campaign for its missteps and failures, and whether his running mate, Paul Ryan, can stay on-message as he takes on Vice President Joe Biden in a foreign policy-themed debate later this week.

Written By

Hope Hodge first covered military issues for the Daily News of Jacksonville, N.C., where her beat included the sprawling Marine Corps base, Camp Lejeune. During her two years at the paper, she received investigative reporting awards for exposing a former Marine who was using faked military awards to embezzle disability pay from the government and for breaking news about the popularity of the designer drug Spice in the ranks. Her work has also appeared in The American Spectator, New York Sun, WORLD Magazine, and The Washington Post. Hodge was born near Boston, Mass., where she grew up as a lover of Revolutionary War history and fall foliage. She also discovered a love of politics and policy as a grassroots volunteer and activist on Beacon Hill. She graduated in 2009 with a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from The King's College in New York City, where she served as editor-in-chief of her school newspaper and worked as a teaching assistant when not freelancing or using student discounts to see Broadway shows. Hope‚??s email is