Looking to bolster his foreign policy credentials in the final weeks before Election Day, Mitt Romney will accuse President Barack Obama of "passive leadership" in the Middle East and will link last month's deadly attack on the United States consulate in Libya to a larger critique of what he'll describe as Obama's failed leadership overseas.
"Hope is not a strategy," Romney will argue in a Monday morning address at the Virginia Military Institute, according to excerpts released by his campaign, reports The Ticket.
Romney will use his speech to double down on his criticism of the Obama administration's response on the attack in Libya, which claimed the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens. The Romney team is hoping to capitalize on what they believe is the Obama administration's misstep in pointing to an anti-Islamic video as the trigger for last month's attack as well as criticism over whether the attack could have been stopped in the first place by beefing up security at its overseas outpost.
"The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts. They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East--a region that is now in the midst of the most profound upheaval in a century. And the fault lines of this struggle can be seen clearly in Benghazi itself," Romney will say, according to his campaign.
He will argue the attack in Benghazi was "likely the work of the same forces that attacked our homeland" during the 9/11 attacks 11 years ago.
"This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the administration's attempts to convince us of that for so long," Romney will say. "No, as the administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West."
Romney will also use the speech to offer new details on his overseas approach. Among other things, he is expected to call for more direct intervention in Syria, arguing that anti-government forces should have weapons. He will also call for the U.S. to be tougher on Iran, saying that if he's elected president he will "not hesitate to impose new sanctions" on the country to stop the country from acquiring nuclear capabilities.
The speech comes as Romney tries again to gain advantage over what he has repeatedly described as Obama's "weak" and "naïve" foreign policy approach. But it also comes as Romney tries to clean up his own perceived foreign policy missteps, including his own widely criticized response to the attacks in Libya, in which he accused Obama of sympathizing with those who had launched the attacks there on and on diplomatic missions overseas.
Romney is also still trying to undo damage from an overseas trip he took in July that was largely overshadowed by his suggestion that London hadn't done enough to prepare for the Summer Olympics and by a swipe at Palestinians, whom he suggestion hadn't moved ahead economically because of their culture.
On Sunday, the Obama campaign used the trip to pre-emptively attack Romney's speech.
"We're not going to be lectured by someone who has been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy every time he's dipped his toe in the foreign policy waters," spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama launched a West Coast fundraising swing.
'The only person who has offended Europe more is probably Chevy Chase," Psaki added in an apparent nod to "National Lampoon's European Vacation."
Romney has come under criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for not offering enough details on what his foreign policy approach would be if he wins the White House. In previewing the speech Sunday, Romney aides argued he would offer "new details" on what his approach would be, but it was unclear exactly how far he would go in detailing exact policies.
"We've gotten various excuses about Benghazi, statements that (the White House) had to pull back from," Eliot Cohen, a former adviser to George W. Bush who is now advising Romney, told reporters Sunday. "But you haven't had an attempt to portray: What's going on here? How should we think about it? What should we do about it? Gov. Romney's going to do step forward and do the kind of things he would do as president--which is to lay out exactly those things."