Foreign policy, civility take center stage in Romney, Obama speeches
BY LYNN SWEET Twitter: @lynnsweet September 25, 2012 8:42PM
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is introduced by former President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Updated: October 27, 2012 6:26AM
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama pledged again Tuesday to prevent Iran “from obtaining a nuclear weapon” while Mitt Romney said U.S foreign aid policies do not work.
That foreign policy was on the Obama and Romney menu had to do with external factors: Tuesday was the opening day of the United Nations’ 67th General Assembly, with world leaders in New York. The annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) — founded by former President Bill Clinton — always takes place at the same time so the international community, already in Manhattan, can attend.
Both Obama and Mitt Romney spoke at the CGI. That’s right, Romney delivered a speech to Clinton’s group even as Clinton is doing everything he can to defeat Romney — with his speech on behalf of Obama a high point of the Democratic convention.
That’s a tribute to the organization Clinton created in what has become a significant and powerful post-presidency — which will take on an even higher profile once Secretary of State Hillary Clinton houses her activities at CGI when she ends her tenure at the State Department next year — whether or not Obama wins another term and whether or not she runs for the White House in 2016.
While Obama and Romney continued to knife each other in the back through paid political ads running in battleground states, Tuesday was marked by civility in New York.
Joked Romney after a gracious introduction from Clinton, “If there’s one thing we’ve — we’ve learned this election season, by the way, it is that a few words from Bill Clinton can do any man a lot of good. All I got to do now is wait a couple of days for that bounce to happen.”
Apart from those words of goodwill, Romney has been bashing Obama over calling the Middle East turmoil “bumps in the road,” in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview in the wake of the murders of four U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Obama in his U.N. speech tried to put the murders in the context of some progress toward democratization in the wake of the Arab Spring — even as an anti-Muslim video made in the U.S. triggered recent Middle East attacks on U.S. facilities. Obama told the U.N. that those demonstrations are really “an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded.”
Obama was working on two fronts Tuesday: sending messages across the globe to Muslim nations while on the home front facing a November election. There were no more mentions of bumps in the road.
On Iran: Obama at the U.N. could not have been clearer when it comes to pledging that Iran will never launch a nuclear missile against Israel. “Make no mistake: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations and the stability of the global economy.” The U.S. “will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
On that video: Obama told the U.N. it was “crude and disgusting” — but the U.S. allows free speech, even religious blasphemy.
On “The View” and meetings: Obama is catching flak from Romney and his allies for making time, with first lady Michelle, to appear on “The View” while in New York — but not clearing a schedule for the usual bi-lateral meetings that take place at the United Nations General Assembly.
The Obama team figured it can take the fire from not taking meetings outside of courtesy calls to U.N. leadership — because, so close to the election, why risk a potential controversy?
Foreign aid: Romney, in his CGI speech, said too much U.S. foreign aid “is not always effective” and presented his plans to couple aid and trade with the private sector to create “Prosperity Pacts” with developing nations.
Sex slavery: Obama threw a spotlight on sexual trafficking in his CGI speech — a topic deserving attention. Said Obama, “I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.”