TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney pulled no punches in going after President Obama with the traditional Republican lines: weak on national security, appeaser of tyrants, etc.
In his biggest applause line, he specifically called out Obama for his unwillingness to confront dictators.
“President Obama began with an apology tour,” he said. “America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No Mr. President, America has freed other nations from dictators.”
One of those countries that America helped free was Libya, where Obama committed the U.S. military in 2011 to an international mission to defend civilians that eventually aided rebel forces in destroying dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s military regime entirely.
At that moment, many Republicans, especially in the tea party movement, were in the midst of a more non-interventionist moment. Romney tread extremely carefully around the issue, saying at first he only supported bombing as a humanitarian effort to protect Libyans and nothing more.
Once reports began to indicate, despite the administration’s claims to the contrary, that NATO was actively working to depose Qaddafi, Romney criticized Obama for the effort, calling it “mission creep and mission muddle.”
“Now the president is saying we have to remove Qaddafi,” he said in a July speech, per ABC. “Who’s going to own Libya if we get rid of the government there?”
Later when Qaddafi was killed, Romney responded by saying, “It’s about time.”
Romney’s reference to an “apology tour,” the presumed source of his book’s title, “No Apology,” also was based on a popular conservative belief that Obama traveled the world to atone for its sins. Fact-checkers have been less kind to the idea, noting that Obama never uttered the word “sorry” in a single speech and frequently accused other countries of engaging in reflexive anti-Americanism.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.