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Obama responds to Romney's tough talk on Mideast

By josh Lederman and Steve Peoples

Associated Press


WASHINGTON » President Barack Obama, defending his foreign policy record at a time of anti-American rage in the Muslim world, fired back at suggestions from Republican Mitt Romney that the president has been weak with allies and enemies alike.

In an interview airing the night before Obama meets with other world leaders at the United Nations, the president said, "If Gov. Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so."

It was Obama's most direct rebuttal yet to persistent skepticism by his White House rival on his handling of an unraveling situation in the Middle East. Romney has charged the U.S. stance has been marred by miscalculations, mixed messages and appeasement.

The foreign policy arguments come as both candidates sharpen their strategy just six weeks ahead of Election Day. Speaking to reporters on a flight to Colorado today, Romney acknowledged he was slipping behind Obama in several swing states and said he would spend more time with voters in the coming weeks.

"I think the fundraising season is probably a little quieter going forward," he said following a weekend largely devoted to raising money in California.

Facing Republican fears that his campaign is moving in the wrong direction, Romney huddled earlier in the day with his top advisers, preparing for next month's debates and crafting a more aggressive strategy.

"I don't pay a lot of attention to the day-to-day polls. They change a great deal," Romney said. "And I know that in the coming six weeks they're very unlikely to stay where they are today."

Obama Is launching a new campaign offensive Monday with his first television advertisement targeting Romney's comments about Americans who don't pay income taxes. The ad, which was to start running in swing state Ohio, argues that Romney should stop attacking others on taxes and "come clean" on his own.

The ad uses Romney's comments to wealthy donors that 47 percent of Americans don't pay income taxes, believe they are victims and feel entitled to government assistance. It shows Romney saying, "My job is not to worry about those people."

The 30-second spot signals that Obama will keep making the wealthy Romney's taxes a campaign issue even after the Republican released a second year of information about his personal finances on Friday.

Romney and Obama both discussed foreign policy in interviews broadcast today on CBS' "60 Minutes."

Romney, who has criticized Obama's response to unrest in Syria and anti-American protests across the Muslim world, broadened his reproach to include Israel. He said Obama's failure to schedule a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the annual U.N. gathering this week "sends a message throughout the Middle East that somehow we distance ourselves from our friends."

The White House has said scheduling precluded a meeting between the two leaders, who won't be in New York at the same time. But Obama pushed back on the notion that he feels pressure from Netanyahu, dismissing as noise the Israeli leader's calls for the U.S. to lay out a "red line" that Iran's nuclear program mustn't cross to avoid American military intervention.

"When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people," Obama said. "And I am going to block out any noise that's out there. "

In a wide-ranging interview conducted the day after U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed in an attack on Benghazi, Obama defended his foreign policy successes, noting he'd followed through on a commitment to end the war in Iraq and had nabbed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

He also waxed optimistic that winning a second term would give him a mandate to overcome obstructionism from congressional Republicans whose No. 1 goal, he said, has been to prevent his re-election.

"My expectation is, my hope is that that's no longer their number one priority," Obama said. "I'm hoping that after the smoke clears and the election season's over that that spirit of cooperation comes more to the fore."

Romney, in an interview conducted last week, sought to deflect attention from his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, over their differences in Medicare policy: "I'm the guy running for president, not him."

While reaffirming his commitment to lowering all income tax rates by 20 percent, Romney expressed no unease about his refusal to offer specifics, such as which loopholes and deductions he'd eliminate to pay for the cuts.

"The devil's in the details. The angel is in the policy, which is creating more jobs," Romney said, adding that he doesn't want to see overall government revenue reduced.

Addressing the seemingly unshakable charge of flip-flopping on policy issues, Romney pointed the finger at Obama, noting his changes of heart on gay marriage and military tribunals for terrorism suspects.

"Have I found some things I thought would be effective turned out not to be effective? Absolutely," Romney said. "You don't learn from experience, you don't learn from your mistakes —why, you know, you ought to be fired."

The series of interviews also offered glimpses into both candidates' personal habits, including their late-night routines. Romney said his nightly prayer is a time to connect both with the divine and with his own thoughts, and said he asks God mainly for wisdom and understanding.

Obama, describing himself as "a night guy," said that after first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters retire around 10 p.m., he hunkers down for reading, writing and occasionally a moment alone on the Truman Balcony, with the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial in view.

"Those are moments of reflection that, you know, help gird you for the next challenge and the next day," Obama said.

The "60 Minutes" interviews came as Romney's campaign strove to turn the page on a week of public stumbles and Republican hand-wringing. On the flight to Colorado, Romney said he's looking forward to next month's debates to help reverse his slide, which he attributed to Obama's aggressive advertising.

"He's trying to fool people into thinking that I think things I don't," Romney said of the president. "And that ends I think during the debates."

Romney blamed his fundraising focus on Obama's decision to bypass traditional spending limits during the 2008 campaign. "I'd far rather be spending my time out in the key swing states campaigning door to door if necessary, but in rallies and various meetings," he said. "But fundraising is part of politics when your opponent decides not to live by the federal spending limits."

After Colorado, Romney was to begin a three-day bus tour in Ohio on Monday followed by a stop in Virginia — states that Obama won in 2008 but that Republicans claimed four years earlier.

While national polls remain tight, polls in several of the most closely watched states, including Colorado, suggest Obama has opened narrow leads. Obama won Colorado by 9 points four years ago, but the state went to a Republican in the previous three presidential elections.

Obama took a rare weekend break from the campaigning ahead of his U.N. address Tuesday, but dispatched top allies to the Sunday talk shows.

Peoples reported from Los Angeles and Denver. AP White House Correspondent Ben Feller contributed to this report.

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64hoo wrote:
romney comes clean how about obama who his buddies general electric and a couple of other big companys did'nt have to pay any taxes last year. come on media why don't you report all that. we know obama did wrong by not letting these big company's pay taxes last year.
on September 23,2012 | 07:02PM
Paulh808 wrote:
Media spin is all for Obama, no matter how much of a failure he has been, the media is working over time trying to prop up their boy. What an embarrassment the main stream media is in our country.
on September 23,2012 | 08:44PM
HD36 wrote:
The last thing this country needs is another needless War.
on September 23,2012 | 08:53PM
ISCREAM wrote:
The last thing this country needs is to have to worry about another rogue country with nuclear weapons...pay now or pay later...your choice.
on September 23,2012 | 08:56PM
HD36 wrote:
Ever heard of North Korea? Why haven't they attacked us after 20 years?
on September 24,2012 | 07:30AM
ISCREAM wrote:
“No one wants to get to the bottom of this more than the president and secretary of state,” Obama senior campaign adviser Robert Gibbs said of the shifting messages coming out of the administration regarding the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi." I am less concerned with whether or not the WH knew of a specific threat to the embassy in Libya. Libya is a dangerous place for foreigners...period. Having recently undergone a violent revolution and with no prior history of being friendly to America, our embassy staff should have had Marines protecting them...this is gross negligence on behalf of the President and Secretary of State...the rest is smoke and mirrors to deflect the rightful concern that Americans have or should have over this basic failure to protect and defend our interests.
on September 23,2012 | 08:55PM
akuman808 wrote:
So you are blaming the POTUS and SOS for the deaths of the ambassador and other Americans? So you have the facts or your neocon naive rhetoric. You can hate the POTUS but don't post idiotic statements. Bush and the republicans did not protect the lives of the over 4,000 servicemen who died in the Iraq war because of some drummed up bogus WMD threat. You of course would give them a pass.
on September 24,2012 | 04:01AM
Brixac3 wrote:
Some very simple questions that have not been addressed by the StarAdvertiser: * Where were the U.S. military guards at the Libyan Embassy? * Marines normally stand guard at Embassy's around the world. Why weren't they posted at the Libyan Embassy? * Why did the POTUS have to give the order that our guards are NOW to have bullets in their guns? * Isn't this the 4th terrorist attack in 3.75 years? 1) Times Square car bomb (failed), 2) Diaper Bomber (failed), 3) Fort Hood (successful) & 4) Libyan embassy (successful). * Didn't the U.S. help with a bombing campaign to help with the Libyan revolution? * Didn't this administration state, after the killing of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, that this is a military model "prescription" for the future in the middle east? * Didn't they say that they were focusing on the new Libyan leaders build a STABLE government? "The dark shadows of tyranny has been lifted." * International media is questioning the CURRENT president's foreign policy & some question the U.S. media's focus on attacking a presidential candidate's POTENTIAL foreign policy. * Insider military attacks in Afghanistan are further evidence that foreign policy is not going well. * Syria is extremely unstable & that situation is being ignored. * The U.S. drone policy is killing a lot of innocent bystanders & said to be creating more terrorists than they are killing. * As an independent & not a fan of Bush's foreign policy, at some point isn't Obama accountable for anything? StarAdvertiser's blatant bias towards candidates and a very clear bent (in the form of candidate endorsements) should give prudent readers pause to consider additional perspectives. Selective reporting & questionable journalistic integrity should motivate everyone to do additional research on topics this important. Anti-American sentiment is very high in the middle east. These are serious times & a personally appealing POTUS should not override our objectivity. Our safety depends on an unbias evaluation of the current foreign policy.
on September 24,2012 | 04:28AM
st1d wrote:
"Obama defended his foreign policy successes, noting he'd followed through on a commitment to end the war in Iraq and had nabbed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden."

obama smugly claims credit for taking out obl, but fails to mention that he abandoned doctor shakil afridi who led the u.s. to obl's hideout. dr afridi has been imprisoned by pakistan as obama reaps undeserved glory for killing obl.

on September 24,2012 | 07:47AM
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