Mitt Romney recalled his own Sept. 11 experience to the National Guard Association Conference on Tuesday, describing how he was in Washington to hammer out details of the 2002 Olympics.
“A colleague and I were working in our office in the Ronald Reagan building, just a few blocks from the White House,” he said. “Someone rushed into our office and said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I turned on the small TV on the desk and watched in shock as flames and smoke erupted from the North Tower.”
Later, Romney described how his car passed near the site of the Pentagon attack.
“Cars had stopped where they were, and people had gotten out, watching in horror,” Romney said. “I could smell burning fuel and concrete and metal. It was the smell of war, something I never imagined I would smell in America.”
Romney set aside his usual partisan jabs in his address, joining the president in what has now become a tradition (inconsistently observed) of suspending political attacks on the anniversary.
He did touch on some defense issues, however, speaking broadly about the need for a strong military and support for veterans at home. Romney also delved into Afghanistan policy, something he omitted from his convention speech and was widely criticized as a result. But he mostly echoed Obama’s 2014 timetable for turning security responsibilities over to Afghanistan’s own forces.
“While the war in Iraq is over, nearly 70,000 American troops still remain in Afghanistan,” Romney said. “Our goal should be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. We should evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders.”
Without directly going after Obama, Romney referred in passing to his own proposals to increase military spending and to his criticism of the president for not doing more to block scheduled cuts included in the 2011 debt-ceiling agreement that his running mate, Paul Ryan, voted for.
“The return of our troops cannot and must not be used as an excuse to hollow out our military through devastating defense budget cuts,” Romney said.
(Photo credit: Brett Marty Photography)
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.