(Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
Republican Mitt Romney addressed a crowd of business leaders and global policy experts Tuesday at former President Bill Clinton's Global Initiative in New York. His message to those gathered and the world was simple: Americans must "never apologize" for America's role as a world leader.
Although he never mentioned President Obama by name, Romney made a strong case that his administration would take a more proactive role in the Middle East and that America does not owe the world an apology in doing so.
"We somehow feel we're at the mercy of events rather than shaping events," said Romney. "I will never apologize for America. I believe that America has been one of the greatest forces for good the world has ever known."
While Romney avoided hitting the president directly, he still drew attention to the differences Americans would see between his administration and the current one.
For example, he said America's first priority should be to extend humanitarian aid, second, "to foster a substantial United States strategic interest, be it military, diplomatic, or economic," and the third – which he said would be a much higher priority in his administration – to provide aid that provides more long-lasting benefits and elevates people, communities and nations.
"Many Americans are troubled by the developments in the Middle East. Syria has witnessed the killing of tens of thousands of people," Romney said. "The president of Egypt is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Our Ambassador to Libya was assassinated in a terrorist attack. And Iran is moving toward nuclear weapons capability. We feel that we are at the mercy of events, rather than shaping events."
Yet Romney needs to find ways in the next 41 days to counter Obama on both foreign policy and domestic economic issues that supporters assumed would be enough to defeat the sitting president in November. One way he may try to get a leg up on Obama is with America's determination to stand up to Iran and to protect Israel.
"Today, we face a world with unprecedented challenges and complexities. We should not forget – and cannot forget – that not far from here, a voice of unspeakable evil and hatred has spoken out, threatening Israel and the civilized world," Romney stressed in what appeared to be a reference to Iran. "But we come together knowing that the bitterness of hate is no match for the strength of love."
Facing what looked to have been a mainly Democrat audience, Romney made light of President Clinton's introduction of him and also praised the former president for his work "to lifting the downtrodden of the world."
"If there's one thing we've learned this election season, it's that a few words from Bill Clinton can do any man a lot of good. After that introduction, I guess all I have to do is wait a day or two for the bounce," quipped Romney.
Romney also touted his state's role in shaping what was later to become AmeriCorps and the positive impact volunteers, government and corporations can have in solving problems if they all work together to help end suffering around the world.
"We look around us and see withering suffering. Our hearts break. While we make up just 4.5 percent of the world's population, we donate nearly a quarter of all global foreign aid – more than twice as much as any other country. And Americans give more than money," he said.
"Pastors like Rick Warren lead mission trips that send thousands of Americans around the world, bringing aid and comfort to the poorest places on the planet. American troops are first on the scene of natural disasters. An earthquake strikes Haiti and care packages from America are among the first to arrive – and not far behind are former Presidents Clinton and Bush."
Romney is set to join his vice presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) on a bus tour through the much needed swing state of Ohio later Tuesday.