On the eve of the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Barack Obama’s re-election team sought to raise doubts about Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s fitness to be commander in chief.
In a conference call with reporters organized by Obama’s campaign, Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander, argued that by omitting mention of Afghanistan in his Aug. 30 speech to the Republican National Convention, Romney had ignored U.S. troops and veterans while demonstrating he has no plan for extricating American forces from that country.
Romney’s omission, said Clark, “reveals a severe lack of understanding about the job as president, doesn’t reflect well on what kind of leadership he would bring, and frankly, it’s just unbecoming of someone who wants to become commander in chief.”
The comments by Clark, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, was the latest effort by Obama’s team to capitalize on the president’s record in fighting terrorism — including his decision last year authorizing the raid that killed Osama bin Laden — and sow concern about Romney’s readiness for the presidency.
The conference call came the day before Romney is to speak to the National Guard Association Convention in Reno, Nevada, and after more than a week’s worth of criticism he has faced for not talking about U.S. troops on stage in Tampa, Florida, where he gave a nomination acceptance speech viewed by 30 million Americans.
Asked why he didn’t talk about Afghanistan, Romney told reporters last week that he had addressed it the day before his acceptance speech during an appearance in Indianapolis, Indiana, before the American Legion. In that speech, in front of a much smaller audience, Romney mentioned Afghanistan once, and didn’t outline his plan for handling the conflict there.
Romney brushed off criticism on the issue during a Sept. 7 interview on the Fox News Channel.
“I only regret you’re repeating it day in and day out,” he said. “When you give a speech, you don’t go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that you think are important, and I described in my speech my commitment to a strong military, unlike the president’s decision to cut our military.”
Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Obama’s campaign, today called Romney’s oversight in Tampa “deliberate.”
“He is running to be commander in chief, this is a nation that’s at war, and he’s failed to outline a plan to end the war in Afghanistan, while criticizing the president’s plans, so I think he owes the American people a plan,” LaBolt said. “It’s up to him to convince people that he’s ready to be commander in chief, and he certainly hasn’t passed that threshold test.”