Mitt Romney stuck to his word not to directly attack President Obama while on foreign soil during the first day of his trip overseas. But his campaign did more than pick up the slack Wednesday, unleashing a barrage of criticism from campaign surrogates eager to bash the president from the Lower 48.
In keeping with the traditional “politics ends at the water’s edge” adage that’s been a fixture of presidential races for years, Romney stuck to his pledge in an NBC interview that aired Wednesday night.
“I don’t want to be in any way critical of the president or to be fashioning foreign policy— departure— from the president, while I’m on foreign soil,” he told Brian Williams.
Call it smart strategy or too cute by half, but the Romney campaign appears bent on using Romney’s foreign trip (his overseas itinerary itself tacit knock on Obama) to launch its most vociferous and sustained national security attack on Obama — even if the candidate himself is keeping cordial.
As Romney was landing in London and meeting with current and former British leaders, his campaign was busy issuing a series of foreign policy and national security-related attacks:
• Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge appeared on MSNBC and picked up on Romney’s recent attacks on the White House over leaks.
“There’s a series of things that the president has done that I think, frankly, disappoints us,” Ridge said. “And, frankly, the security leaks in my judgment are a major national security problem.” The Romney camp quickly sent out video of the appearance to reporters.
• Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) accused Obama of having “blind faith in tyrants” in an eyebrow-raising statement distributed by the Romney campaign.
“For the sake of the United States’ interests and the security of our allies, we can’t afford four more years of President Obama’s indecision, alienation of our allies, and blind faith that cruel and evil tyrants will eventually change their ways if we play nice and wait long enough,” Rubio said.
Among the “tyrants” Rubio called out: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, “the Castro regime” as well as “the Russians and Chinese.”
• Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) joined the chorus over security leaks with a Romney campaign statement.
• House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told Fox News Romney’s trip to England, Israel and Poland will bring Romney face to face with “governments very wary of the direction of America’s leadership” under Obama. The Romney campaign sent that one around, too.
• Meanwhile, a controversial quote from an unnamed “Romney adviser” in the Daily Telegraph made the rounds early Wednesday. Vice President Biden attacked Romney over the story, claiming it violated his pledge to mute the attacks while overseas.
The Romney defended itself by attacking the Obama campaign, but didn’t mention the national security stuff.
The whole “politics at the water’s edge” notion is somewhat archaic, as the AP catalogued Wednesday. But for Romney to say he’s steering clear of attacking Obama on national security topics while he’s overseas is confusing considering the full-court press back home.
The Romney campaign declined to respond to a request for comment.