Change? Obama Worse than Bush

The verdict is in, and Barack Obama did not produce the change he promised.  In fact, as he blames all his ills on the last 8 years, it is interesting to compare the Bush years to the Obama years.  Consider the following:

Average Annual Increase in Public Debt (in millions):

Bush: $543,818        Obama: $1,497,601

Total Increase in Public Debt (in millions):

Bush (8 years): $4,217,261   Obama (4 years): $5,990,407

Average Annual Unemployment (Also see here):

Bush: 5.26%                    Obama: 9.2%

Median Household Incomes:

January, 2009: $55,198       August, 2012: $50,678

The Average Annual Price of Gas (not even including 2012):

Bush: $2.14                     Obama: $2.89

Cost of Higher Education (adj. for inflation, not even including 2012):

Bush 2008: $16,661     Obama 2011: $18,497

But isn’t health insurance cheaper now with Obamacare?  No.  In 2012 the amount a family with employer provided coverage pays in annual premiums has increased to about $16,000.  For families with private individual plans, the amount is up to $5,615.  And before you ask why families don’t all just switch to private individual plans, remember that Obamacare taxes medium-large businesses up to $3,000 per employee that they don’t cover.

But we know Obama has handled the economy terribly.  The other thing people elected Obama for was to end the wars.  Obama promised to close Gitmo, which didn’t happen, and to end the war in Iraq.  He ended the war in Iraq by sticking to Bush’s timeline, but that wasn’t the whole story.  Obama intended to continue the war and leave troops in Iraq, but Biden could not negotiate simple immunity for our troops.  Don’t look now, but the Afghanistan war isn’t ending in 2014.  The administration is already negotiating to keep up to 25,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

Let’s look at war by the numbers.

Involvement in Major Foreign Conflicts:

Bush: 2 countries           Obama: 3 countries

Military Spending as % of GDP:

Bush, 2008: 4.4%          Obama, 2011: 4.7%

Average Annual War Spending:

Bush: $99.3 Billion       Obama: $155.1 Billion

Obama boasts of ending the war in Iraq, but how is the peace President doing in Afghanistan?

Average Annual Troop Deaths:

Bush: 606                        Obama: 445

Iraq:  528                         66

Afghanistan: 78              379

But what about Bush’s handling of Katrina?  Surely Obama has done better than that, right?  Former NYC Mayor Guiliani says no.

What about taxes?  Obama boasts about cutting people’s taxes, but most of the tax hikes he passed don’t go into effect until next year.  Obamacare has 20 different tax hikes in it, and many of those affect the poor and the sick.

But Obama saved the auto industry, right?  Actually, the only Detroit major that survived was Ford.  Ford didn’t take Obama’s bailout.  Chrysler did, and is now owned by an Italian company called Fiat.  GM took Obama’s bailout and is now owned by the taxpayers.  This was after Obama spent billions to bailout the unions before letting the two companies go through bankruptcy.  If that’s Obama saving the auto industry, I hope he doesn’t do me any favors.

Add these factors to Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the Black Panther polling case, Solyndra, and the other various scandals and overreaches of the Obama administration, and there is no reason to re-elect Obama.  Except of course if you got an Obama phone and are afraid of losing it.

How Obama Could Still Win:

Several states in play are ties or tossups in the latest polls.  In some, Obama is leading by 3-5%, but 3-5% are either undecided or going third party.  Obama can still win, even with his horrible statistics, if people vote third party or stay home.

I know many out there are voting third party or not voting to protest Romney.  I, like you, am a very libertarian leaning constitutionalist.  I’d love to see us out of the Middle East.  I’d love to see government spending cut in half.  I’d love to see us hold to our 10th amendment.  But Mitt Romney is NOT Barack Obama.

If anything, Mitt Romney is far closer to Reagan.  Despite being hailed as a conservative hero, Reagan is not as conservative as I would have preferred.  In fact, many Ron Paul and Gary Johnson voters would probably not vote for Reagan either.  But Mitt Romney is not the candidate you should be protesting.  You should be protesting Barack Obama.

Consider your goals and which candidate will get us there:

Less involvement in the Middle East: Mitt Romney has a comprehensive energy plan that gets America using its own resources to lower our dependence on OPEC.  Obama spent billions of your tax dollars on green energy companies that went bankrupt, and we are no closer to independence from foreign oil.

Simpler, fairer tax system: Romney’s plan reduces rates in order to remove loopholes and deductions based on the government’s definition of what a good citizen looks like without raising taxes.  Obama’s plan is higher taxes, more redistribution and a more complex tax system designed to pick winners and losers.

Foreign wars: Obama has proven himself to be an interventionalist.  He is not the peace President people hoped for.  He hasn’t closed Gitmo.  He only left Iraq because he was too incompetent to negotiate a way to stay there.  But he is already negotiating to keep 25,000 troops in Afghanistan.  Romney’s approach is to show the kind of strength Reagan did.  What major war did we fight when Reagan was President?  The Cold War, where we sat across the ocean from each other and didn’t pull the trigger for eight years.  Finally, the Soviet Union collapsed under their economic system.

More personal freedom and responsibility: Nothing took us backwards further as a nation than Obamacare.  Obamacare mandates that every American buy private health insurance or pay a tax.  Obamacare takes deciding power away from doctors and patients and gives it to the government.  If you protest Romney, Obamacare is here to stay.  If you vote to protest Obama, we have a shot at repealing this monstrous tax on the sick and the poor.

Does My Vote Count?

If you are thinking of voting third party or not voting because Romney is not as conservative as you’d like, you could be part of the margin that gives Obama four more years to take us down the path towards socialism at hyperspeed.  So where does Romney need your vote the most:

Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Mexico, Arizona.

But believe it or not, he also needs you in Oregon, Minnesota, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Maine. If nothing else, vote to tell the liberals in your state that they do not have a mandate.  The country is changing and is leaning to the right.  You will never get the conservative, limited government you want if you let the country fall off the socialist cliff because the most conservative candidate who can win is not conservative enough for you.

When you walk into the voting booth, consider what you want America to look like in 2016.  Do you want to move forward the way Obama does?  Do you really want four more years of this?

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The High Stake Strategies in Tonight’s Final Presidential Debate?

   Bookmark and Share   Tonight’s debate may be President Obama’s last chance to put a stop to the momentum behind Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.  Putting more pressure on the President is the reality that the President must not only stop Romney’s forward momentum, he must reverse it.  That need has been made quite evident since the first presidential debate when Mitt Romney mopped the floor with President Obama and a seemingly large number of Americans got what was essentially their first real impression of Romney… an impression that swayed undecided, independent, and women  voters Romney’s way and has apparently become a lasting impression.

Given those circumstances, it is hard to say exactly what we can expect from Mitt Romney tonight.  Romney could easily use this opportunity to try knock-out the President with a series of shots dealing with Benghazi.  Romney could try to go for broke on Benghazi by pressing the President on what seems to be a cover-up of the facts with weeks of contradictory and misleading answers to legitimate questions and also on what is an obvious intelligence failure of catastrophic proportions which allowed the President to know nothing about the fact that al Qaeda was establishing itself in Eastern Libya.  But if Romney takes this route, he must be extraordinarily careful.  If he is too aggressive, it will backfire.  An over aggressive approach to this will turn off many of the voters Romney needs to win in key battleground states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, and New Hampshire, which are too close for comfort.

Beating the President over the head with Benghazi will also risk the creation of a new narrative that will suggest that Romney took legitimate questions about the events surrounding Benghazi and exploited them by over-politicizing them in a desperate attempt to win the presidential election.  Such a narrative just two weeks before Election Day would produce irreversibly damaging results for the Romney-Ryan ticket and future headlines in the biased liberal media will deal more with their accusing Romney of attempting to exploit Benghazi than the facts that make Mitt Romney right to make Benghazi an issue.

So while the temptation to confront President Obama with the evidence and questions surrounding the obvious foreign policy and national security blunders behind Benghazi, Romney would probably be best advised to allude to these legitimate concerns in broader terms.

In the days to come, Romney surrogates will surely continue to raise the tough questions that the President continues to avoid giving accurate answers to.  And that is how it should be given the fact that much of this election is still being decided on the economy and the President’s failed record on the economy.

If Romney wants to ask President Obama one tough question on Benghazi though, it should be this.

“Mr. President, of all the questions that you must answer to regarding Benghazi, I have one which does not require any major and in-depth investigations, or congressional hearings.  It is this.  Aside from the questions as to why you did not know anything about Ambassador Steven’s warnings of a growing presence of al Qaeda, as far back as two months prior to his assassination, what I can’t help but wonder is why you, not anyone else…just you..  Why you could not figure out that September 11th followed September 10th?  You did not need the NSA, FBI, CIA, or DHS to tell you on September 10th that the following day would be September 11th and that September 11th is a tragic date that for the past 11 years has warranted heightened security at our consulates and embassies.  It seems to me that that is a basic fact that no President should have to be schooled on.  So aside from all the other questions, I think that the answer to that most basic question about that most basic fact provides the backdrop for a level of incompetence that stops nowhere else other than smack-dab in the middle of your desk.”

The President may or may not have a fairly reasonable response, but either way, by asking that question, Romney will have raised doubt about the President’s national security, intelligence, and foreign policies.

Another point that Romney must make clear is that if the President had not avoided approximately 62% of his daily intelligence meetings since the beginning of 2012, the security issues in Libya and the broader national security concern about a resurgence of al Qaeda in Libya, may have been raised or at the very least, the in depth discussions conducted in those meetings might have at least triggered in President Obama, a concern that could have helped him eventually learn about the facts in Libya that he and the Vice President claim they knew nothing about.

Aside from those questionable approaches for Romney on Benghazi, Mitt Romney should focus on using this foreign policy debate to subtly appeal to voting blocs that could help him win key battleground states.

To win favor with the swing voters in Ohio, Romney must nail the President on the issue of Chinese trade.  Our trade troubles with China may not seem like a major issue in this election but Romney’s campaign has polling that shows the issue of trade with China is of great importance to struggling Ohioans who feel President Obama has not done enough to even the playing field between China and the U.S. China.  They believe it is an imbalance that continues to prevent them from getting necessary job opportunities in the manufacturing industry.

Then there is Florida.

In Florida, while Romney currently holds a lead that is too close for comfort.  One way to expand that lead is by appealing to the Sunshine State’s larger than average Jewish vote.

The Jewish vote is traditionally a strong part of the Democrat’s base but in 2012 there is ample evidence that President Obama is getting a smaller share of Jewish support than he has in the past.  To take advantage of this trend, Mitt Romney needs to create doubt about the President’s handling of Iran regarding their attempts to enrich uranium, and also on the President’s shaky relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A succesful but subtle exploitation by Romney of Israel and China during tonight’s debate can achieve two critical keys to Romney’s victory on Election Day.  It can give him the edge he needs in Ohio and Florida, two states which together, can be the difference between winning and losing in the Electoral College.

As for President Obama, tonight he needs convince voters that while he is ending the wars we are in, Mitt Romney will get us into new wars.

President Obama must try to derail Romney by making voters believe Romney is too out os step with the desires of Americans.  He must paint Romney as a dangerously inexperienced neo-con who wants to re-wage the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and wants to take us to war in Iran.

If Mitt Romney can’t offer his own legitimate approach to how he intends to handle these nations as well as others such as Libya and Syria, Obama will have the ability to leave lasting marks on Romney among the undecided voters that both men need to swing in their direction on Election Day.  But that will be a tall order for President Obama.  Not only has Romney shown himself quite adept at turning around such charges, thanks to recent events, when it comes to foreign policy, it President Obama who now finds himself on the defense, not Mitt Romney.Bookmark and Share

Ryan Wins Debate as Biden’s Bizarre Laughing Grabbed the Spotlight

  Bookmark and Share    The first and only vice presidential debate consisted of substantive questions that were occasionally met with equally substantive answers, at least in the case of a well prepared Paul Ryan.  Unfortunately the content in the answers were overshadowed by the awkward, bizarre, and often discomforting laughing fits that Vice President Biden consistently launched in to for the first three quarters of the forum. (See video of the full debate here)

Each time Paul Ryan offered an answer to a question, ol’ Joe reacted with a disturbing, uncontrolled, obnoxious, laugh that often made him look like the crazy guy on the bus that mother’s shield their children from.  At one point, Biden’s grimaces and forced cackles made him a perfect candidate for Jack Nicholson’s role in a remake of Stanley Kubric’s “The Shining”‘.   All that was missing was a wild eyed Biden writing “Redrum” across the desk that he sat behind on the stage of debate.

In between Biden’s exaggerated and disrespectful, chortling and snickering, the two men did ignite fireworks as they hammered each other on such issues as Libya, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, taxes, and Medicare.

The sparks flew immediately after moderator Martha Raddatz asked the first question on the hot button issue of the terrorist attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on the anniversary of 9/11.  Raddatz essentially asked if there was a failure of intelligence leading up to the attack.  For his part Biden, never directly answered that question but he tried to claim that the Administration knew everything it needed to know and acted responsibly and appropriately to the circumstances leading up to the attack, and in the response to the attacks in the days following them.

Congressman Ryan took the opportunity to hammer the Obam-Biden ticket on the issue as he launched in to a familiar but well stated criticism of the way Benghazi was handled.

“It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack,”

 Ryan said;

“This Benghazi attack would be a tragedy in and of itself, but unfortunately it’s indicative of a larger problem,” adding that Obama’s policy toward the Middle East is “making the world more chaotic and us less safe.”

Ryan also charged;

“What we are watching on our tv screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy,”

Laughing Joe responded “Not true,” and added;

“With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey,”

The Vice President continued his attack on Ryan’s remarks by also falsely suggesting that proposed Republican cuts in embassy security of $300 million were the reason for the lack of security that made the attacks possible.  Biden further lied by claiming that the Administration knew of no requests for additional security in Benghazi.

Paul Ryan came back by making it clear that we now know there were requests for additional security but the  requests were denied by the Administration.

One of the best lines of the night came from Ryan who reminded voters of just how often Biden puts his foot in his mouth.  After the Vice President tried to distort Mitt Romney’s past controversial remark at a fundraising about 47% of voters, Ryan fired back;

“With respect to that quote,  I think the Vice President very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way”

To which a still laughing Joe responded”

“But I always say what I mean”.

For his part, throughout the debate, Paul Ryan was articulate, knowledgable, convincing, respectful, confident, and firm.  As for the Vice President, he was quick but disingenuous, as he performed in a way that was childish, disrespectful, arrogant, smarmy and at times goofy .  While Biden often made remarks that contained a perfect working class pitch to his base, between his demeanor and attempts to interrupt Ryan a total of 82 times, any possibly strong statements made by the Vice President were overshadowed by his disrespectful, cocky and often flippant attitude.  All of which was compounded by his disconcerting, wacky fits of laughter.

It was clear to me that after President Obama’s disasterous debate performance last week, several strategic decisions forced the Obama-Biden campaign to approach this debate in a way that was intended to make Ryan seem like he did not know what he was talking about and that his ticket was detached from reality.  So they decided to have Biden go on the attack.  Then they also decided to try to take advantage of Biden’s lengthy political career and advanced age as compared to the younger Ryan who was only four years old when Biden was first elected to the Senate.  They had hoped that by laughing at Ryan, Biden would look like the experienced elder statesman who was facing off against the clueless, young punk.  The strategy could have work were it not for two things.  The first being that Ryan knew what he was talking about and lacked the type of arrogance that could have allowed him to fall into that trap.  The second problem with the Biden strategy was that Biden’s laughing was taken to a level so exaggerated and flamboyant, that it came off as unnatural , dismissive, and inappropriate.   In the end, the strategy backfired on Joe and his ticket.

In the final analysis this debate did not reveal anything new to us about the candidates or their positions.  But it did go a long way in  leaving voters with  another negative impression of the Obama-Biden ticket and another positive impression of the Romney-Ryan ticket.  And while  Joe’s shots at Paul Ryan did whip up liberals who were already voting for Obama, he failed to make the case for why another four years of Obama-Biden will be any better the last four.  As for Paul Ryan, his steady demeanor and performance combined with his command of the issues, went a long way in convincing the all important independent and undecided voters that the Obama-Biden ticket is failing us.Bookmark and Share

The Desperate Democrat Attempt to Blame GOP Budget Cuts for the Attack in Benghazi

  Bookmark and Share   As President Obama enters the last three weeks of his reelection effort, he finds himself facing a tide that is turning against him.  Between his disastrous debate performance, a still stagnant economy, and continued unbearably high unemployment, polls seem to indicate that President Obama is finally being held accountable for his record.  But another recent event that the President has been trying his best to avoid accountability for is proving particularly hard for him to evade.  It is the tragic terrorist backed assassinations of four Americans within the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

Since the murder of Chris Stevens, our Ambassador to Libya, and the three members of his security detail, the Obama Administration has taken a tragic event and turned it into a scandal by trying to deny and hide the facts leading up to the attack and the facts surrounding the distortions and misleading statements from the Administration after the attacks.   But on Wednesday, as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee began hearings in  to the matter, Democrats used the opportunity to help President Obama’s reelection effort.  Instead of seeking a legitimate line of questioning that would have helped to explain exactly what was behind the Administration’s continued misleading statements about the events in Benghazi,  Democrats on the committee did their best to ensure that President Obama was not held accountable for either the  apparent vulnerability of our representatives to the violent acts that took place, or the lack of honesty about the attacks in the days and weeks following it.

Leading this liberal reelection strategy for the President during the hearing was Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings and District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.  The two of them used their opening statements to claim that the deaths of the four Americans in Benghazi were due to Republican cuts in the budget… specifically cuts in the levels of funding to embassies and consulates.  it’s a charge that was first made back on October 2, by Nancy “We Don’t Know What’s in The Bill” Pelosi.

On the surface, the argument sounds like a plausible factor in the success of the attack on our Libyan consulate.  However; when one understands the facts ignored within the claim,  they become privy to just how ludicrous the charge is and they also get an insightful look at exactly how hypocritical, deceitful and disingenuous Democrats and their argument are.

Cummings and his fellow liberal liars are referring specifically to the final fiscal year 2012 omnibus appropriations package that included $2.075 billion for the State Departments embassy and consulate security programs.  It is a figure that is  $567.5 million less than what the Obama administration’s requested.  And while it is true that Republicans proposed the bill that contained these cuts, it is also true that while a total of 147 Republicans supported the bill, 149 Democrats also cast their final vote for the bill and the cuts contained in it.  And Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat member of the House Oversight Committee who is blaming the cuts for the murder of 4 representatives in Benghazi, was one of them.

This raises several major issues.

1.- Were The Cuts Responsible For the Successful Terrorist Attack in Benghazi?

No.

When asked in Wednesday’s hearing if the refusal to provide more security was caused by budget cuts to embassy security, Charlene Lamb, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Programs replied “No, sir”.   So according to Lamb, a lack of available financial resources was not behind the lack of proper security in Benghazi.

2.- What Was Responsible For the Lack of Proper Security in Benghazi?

According to Eric Nordstrom, the man responsible for security in Libya, told member of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday that the Obama Administration decided to “hope everything would” change for the better rather than provide additional security.

He added;

So when I requested resources, when I requested assets, instead of supporting those assets, I was criticized,”

Nordstrum further stated;

“There was no plan. And it was hoped that everything would get better.”

3.- Why Are Democrats Lying?

Democrats know that the President screwed up here.  But admitting that would be too detrimental to not only the President’s reelection chances, but to the rest of  their ticket in several states where Democrats have tight House and Senate contests that their candidates can’t afford a lack of long presidential coattails in.  So in a desperate attempt to change the negative Benghazi narrative that is adding to the President’s recent downward spiral, they are searching for any excuse that could buy them time between now and Election day.

Given the facts cited above though, while it is clear that budget cuts were not responsible for the lack of security provided at our Libyan consulate,  it is quite clear that the Obama Administration was ignoring the threat to our consulate and the staff operating in it.  There is even evidence that a decision was made within the Administration to deny the construction of a bob wired fence around the consulate because Obama officials did not like the fact that such a measure would look like there was a a problem that required additional security in Benghazi.

All of this is further evidence of a President and Administration that was negligent in the Benghazi terrorist attack and the President, the State Department, and congressional Democrats all know this to be the case.  That is why they have been trying to cover every aspect of this tragedy up since it occurred on 9/11/12.

It all started with their denial to admit that it was an attack by terrorists.  Why? Becuase the Administration did not want to use the word terrorist, especially in relation to the date… 9/11.  The relationship of the word and date makes it hard for the Administration to explain why on the anniversary of the infamous September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our nation, our embassies and consulates did not experience the type of heightened security that they usually do on that?   The need for additional security on that date is something which should not require any increased intelligence from the C.I.A. or F.B.I.  It merely requires average intelligence, something which the Obama Administration obviously lacks.

But it gets worse.

Fearful that they would not be able to defend their decision not to increase security on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 or to follow up on requests for additional security at the consulate during the rest of the year, in their attempt to avoid admitting that the attack was the work of terrorists, the Obama regime tried to claim the assassinations in Benghazi were attributed to a violent protest that was prompted by a video that offended Muslims.  The problem is that both initial assertions were wrong and the Administration knew they were wrong. This means those initial statement that came out after the attack were lies.  Mounting evidence has demonstrated that the Administration knew there was no protest prior to the attack, knew that terrorists were behind the attack, and they knew that the Benghazi consulate was at high risk of a terrorist attack. But the continued attempts by the Administration to mislead us ever since the attack first took place have now snowballed and are quickly turning a disastrous national security policy decision into  a humiliating and possibly criminal coverup scandal.  As a result, the Administration is now not only beginning to be held  accountable for the negligence of their policies that led to the deaths of our Libyan staff, their continued lies are implicating them more and more each day in the apparent attempt to coverup their negligence.

The recent outrageous and hypocritical attempts by Cummings and others on the left to blame the Benghazi attacks on Republicans sponsored budget cuts is just another example of how desperate Democrats are to ignore the facts and rid themselves and their President of the need to be held responsible for their actions that led to the deaths of our Ambassador and his three man security team, and the attempted coverup of the facts after the attack.

Making matters worse is a media that has now become complicit in this recent lie.

Outlets like the always unreliable Huffington Compost have gone out of their way to feature posts which continue to advance the narrative that Republican budget cuts were responsible for the deaths in Benghazi.  If such reporting was intended to be a sincere presentation of facts, how come they refuse to report “all” the facts?  All the facts that demonstrate how utterly false the charge is and all the facts that demonstrate even if the charge was true, Democrats, including those who made the charge, supported the budget cuts in numbers greater than Republicans.

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Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy Speech at VMI – Full Video and Transcript

  Bookmark and Share  In what was an extraordinary statement of American leadership and strength, Mitt Romney offered the nation a major foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute which echoed a forceful call for peace through strength and clarity of purpose.  Romney’s speech presented a national security and foreign policy vision that starkly contrasted with President Obama’s failing and muddled, lead-from-behind policy direction by outlining a definitive role for America in the community of nations. (See video and transcript of the speech below)

Romney’s well delivered and eloquent outline of his foreign policy vision focused on the turmoil brewing in Libya, Egypt, and Syria, where he said Obama has “failed” to lead but he also outlined his intention to restore and maintain America’s strength, especially in the case of America’s naval force which Romney pointed out is currently  at a level  not seen since 1916.

While the speech may not get the attention that it deserves, those who do take the time to listen to it will find themselves walking away with a sense of Mitt Romney that leaves them feeling confident in Mitt Romney and what is his unambiguous foreign policy direction for the nation.  Romney’s speech presented him with an opportunity to be presidential and he took full advantage of that opportunity by proving to be a clearheaded leader with the ability and plan to put the nation on a foreign policy path that will put America in  control of circumstances rather than place America at the mercy of circumstances.

Complete Transcript of Romney’s Speech

For more than 170 years, VMI has done more than educate students. It has guided their transformation into citizens, and warriors, and leaders. VMI graduates have served with honor in our nation’s defense, just as many are doing today in Afghanistan and other lands. Since the September 11th attacks, many of VMI’s sons and daughters have defended America, and I mourn with you the 15 brave souls who have been lost. I join you in praying for the many VMI graduates and all Americans who are now serving in harm’s way. May God bless all who serve, and all who have served.

Of all the VMI graduates, none is more distinguished than George Marshall—the Chief of Staff of the Army who became Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, who helped to vanquish fascism and then planned Europe’s rescue from despair. His commitment to peace was born of his direct knowledge of the awful costs and consequences of war.

General Marshall once said, “The only way human beings can win a war is to prevent it.” Those words were true in his time—and they still echo in ours.

Last month, our nation was attacked again. A U.S. Ambassador and three of our fellow Americans are dead—murdered in Benghazi, Libya. Among the dead were three veterans. All of them were fine men, on a mission of peace and friendship to a nation that dearly longs for both. President Obama has said that Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues represented the best of America. And he is right. We all mourn their loss.

The attacks against us in Libya were not an isolated incident. They were accompanied by anti-American riots in nearly two dozen other countries, mostly in the Middle East, but also in Africa and Asia. Our embassies have been attacked. Our flag has been burned. Many of our citizens have been threatened and driven from their overseas homes by vicious mobs, shouting “Death to America.” These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

As the dust settles, as the murdered are buried, Americans are asking how this happened, how the threats we face have grown so much worse, and what this calls on America to do. These are the right questions. And I have come here today to offer a larger perspective on these tragic recent events—and to share with you, and all Americans, my vision for a freer, more prosperous, and more peaceful world.

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.

The attack on our Consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 was likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001. 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. 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.

We saw all of this in Benghazi last month—but we also saw something else, something hopeful. After the attack on our Consulate, tens of thousands of Libyans, most of them young people, held a massive protest in Benghazi against the very extremists who murdered our people. They waved signs that read, “The Ambassador was Libya’s friend” and “Libya is sorry.” They chanted “No to militias.” They marched, unarmed, to the terrorist compound. Then they burned it to the ground. As one Libyan woman said, “We are not going to go from darkness to darkness.”

This is the struggle that is now shaking the entire Middle East to its foundation. It is the struggle of millions and millions of people—men and women, young and old, Muslims, Christians and non-believers—all of whom have had enough of the darkness. It is a struggle for the dignity that comes with freedom, and opportunity, and the right to live under laws of our own making. It is a struggle that has unfolded under green banners in the streets of Iran, in the public squares of Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen, and in the fights for liberty in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Libya, and now Syria. In short, it is a struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair.

We have seen this struggle before. It would be familiar to George Marshall. In his time, in the ashes of world war, another critical part of the world was torn between democracy and despotism. Fortunately, we had leaders of courage and vision, both Republicans and Democrats, who knew that America had to support friends who shared our values, and prevent today’s crises from becoming tomorrow’s conflicts.

Statesmen like Marshall rallied our nation to rise to its responsibilities as the leader of the free world. We helped our friends to build and sustain free societies and free markets. We defended our friends, and ourselves, from our common enemies. We led. And though the path was long and uncertain, the thought of war in Europe is as inconceivable today as it seemed inevitable in the last century.

This is what makes America exceptional: It is not just the character of our country—it is the record of our accomplishments. America has a proud history of strong, confident, principled global leadership—a history that has been written by patriots of both parties. That is America at its best. And it is the standard by which we measure every President, as well as anyone who wishes to be President. Unfortunately, this President’s policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership. And nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East.

I want to be very clear: The blame for the murder of our people in Libya, and the attacks on our embassies in so many other countries, lies solely with those who carried them out—no one else. But it is the responsibility of our President to use America’s great power to shape history—not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events. Unfortunately, that is exactly where we find ourselves in the Middle East under President Obama.

The relationship between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel, our closest ally in the region, has suffered great strains. The President explicitly stated that his goal was to put “daylight” between the United States and Israel. And he has succeeded. This is a dangerous situation that has set back the hope of peace in the Middle East and emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran.

Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability. It has never posed a greater danger to our friends, our allies, and to us. And it has never acted less deterred by America, as was made clear last year when Iranian agents plotted to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in our nation’s capital. And yet, when millions of Iranians took to the streets in June of 2009, when they demanded freedom from a cruel regime that threatens the world, when they cried out, “Are you with us, or are you with them?”—the American President was silent.

Across the greater Middle East, as the joy born from the downfall of dictators has given way to the painstaking work of building capable security forces, and growing economies, and developing democratic institutions, the President has failed to offer the tangible support that our partners want and need.

In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al-Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran. And yet, America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence. The President tried—and failed—to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains.

The President has failed to lead in Syria, where more than 30,000 men, women, and children have been massacred by the Assad regime over the past 20 months. Violent extremists are flowing into the fight. Our ally Turkey has been attacked. And the conflict threatens stability in the region.

America can take pride in the blows that our military and intelligence professionals have inflicted on Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the killing of Osama bin Laden. These are real achievements won at a high cost. But Al-Qaeda remains a strong force in Yemen and Somalia, in Libya and other parts of North Africa, in Iraq, and now in Syria. And other extremists have gained ground across the region. Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight, but they are no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East.

The President is fond of saying that “The tide of war is receding.” And I want to believe him as much as anyone. But when we look at the Middle East today—with Iran closer than ever to nuclear weapons capability, with the conflict in Syria threating to destabilize the region, with violent extremists on the march, and with an American Ambassador and three others dead likely at the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliates— it is clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the President took office.

I know the President hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope. But hope is not a strategy. We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to speak of, and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity.

The greater tragedy of it all is that we are missing an historic opportunity to win new friends who share our values in the Middle East—friends who are fighting for their own futures against the very same violent extremists, and evil tyrants, and angry mobs who seek to harm us. Unfortunately, so many of these people who could be our friends feel that our President is indifferent to their quest for freedom and dignity. As one Syrian woman put it, “We will not forget that you forgot about us.”

It is time to change course in the Middle East. That course should be organized around these bedrock principles: America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might. No friend of America will question our commitment to support them… no enemy that attacks America will question our resolve to defeat them… and no one anywhere, friend or foe, will doubt America’s capability to back up our words.

I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region—and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions—not just words—that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.

I will reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security—the world must never see any daylight between our two nations.

I will deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf.

And I will roll back President Obama’s deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense that would devastate our military. I will make the critical defense investments that we need to remain secure. The decisions we make today will determine our ability to protect America tomorrow. The first purpose of a strong military is to prevent war.

The size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916. I will restore our Navy to the size needed to fulfill our missions by building 15 ships per year, including three submarines. I will implement effective missile defenses to protect against threats. And on this, there will be no flexibility with Vladimir Putin. And I will call on our NATO allies to keep the greatest military alliance in history strong by honoring their commitment to each devote 2 percent of their GDP to security spending. Today, only 3 of the 28 NATO nations meet this benchmark.

I will make further reforms to our foreign assistance to create incentives for good governance, free enterprise, and greater trade, in the Middle East and beyond. I will organize all assistance efforts in the greater Middle East under one official with responsibility and accountability to prioritize efforts and produce results. I will rally our friends and allies to match our generosity with theirs. And I will make it clear to the recipients of our aid that, in return for our material support, they must meet the responsibilities of every decent modern government—to respect the rights of all of their citizens, including women and minorities… to ensure space for civil society, a free media, political parties, and an independent judiciary… and to abide by their international commitments to protect our diplomats and our property.

I will champion free trade and restore it as a critical element of our strategy, both in the Middle East and across the world. The President has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years. I will reverse that failure. I will work with nations around the world that are committed to the principles of free enterprise, expanding existing relationships and establishing new ones.

I will support friends across the Middle East who share our values, but need help defending them and their sovereignty against our common enemies.

In Libya, I will support the Libyan people’s efforts to forge a lasting government that represents all of them, and I will vigorously pursue the terrorists who attacked our consulate in Benghazi and killed Americans.

In Egypt, I will use our influence—including clear conditions on our aid—to urge the new government to represent all Egyptians, to build democratic institutions, and to maintain its peace treaty with Israel. And we must persuade our friends and allies to place similar stipulations on their aid.

In Syria, I will work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets. Iran is sending arms to Assad because they know his downfall would be a strategic defeat for them. We should be working no less vigorously with our international partners to support the many Syrians who would deliver that defeat to Iran—rather than sitting on the sidelines. It is essential that we develop influence with those forces in Syria that will one day lead a country that sits at the heart of the Middle East.

And in Afghanistan, I will pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. President Obama would have you believe that anyone who disagrees with his decisions in Afghanistan is arguing for endless war. But the route to more war – and to potential attacks here at home – is a politically timed retreat that abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11. I will evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders. And I will affirm that my duty is not to my political prospects, but to the security of the nation.

Finally, I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel. On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew.

There is a longing for American leadership in the Middle East—and it is not unique to that region. It is broadly felt by America’s friends and allies in other parts of the world as well— in Europe, where Putin’s Russia casts a long shadow over young democracies, and where our oldest allies have been told we are “pivoting” away from them … in Asia and across the Pacific, where China’s recent assertiveness is sending chills through the region … and here in our own hemisphere, where our neighbors in Latin America want to resist the failed ideology of Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers and deepen ties with the United States on trade, energy, and security. But in all of these places, just as in the Middle East, the question is asked: “Where does America stand?”

I know many Americans are asking a different question: “Why us?” I know many Americans are asking whether our country today—with our ailing economy, and our massive debt, and after 11 years at war—is still capable of leading.

I believe that if America does not lead, others will—others who do not share our interests and our values—and the world will grow darker, for our friends and for us. America’s security and the cause of freedom cannot afford four more years like the last four years. I am running for President because I believe the leader of the free world has a duty, to our citizens, and to our friends everywhere, to use America’s great influence—wisely, with solemnity and without false pride, but also firmly and actively—to shape events in ways that secure our interests, further our values, prevent conflict, and make the world better—not perfect, but better.

Our friends and allies across the globe do not want less American leadership. They want more—more of our moral support, more of our security cooperation, more of our trade, and more of our assistance in building free societies and thriving economies. So many people across the world still look to America as the best hope of humankind. So many people still have faith in America. We must show them that we still have faith in ourselves—that we have the will and the wisdom to revive our stagnant economy, to roll back our unsustainable debt, to reform our government, to reverse the catastrophic cuts now threatening our national defense, to renew the sources of our great power, and to lead the course of human events.

Sir Winston Churchill once said of George Marshall: “He … always fought victoriously against defeatism, discouragement, and disillusion.” That is the role our friends want America to play again. And it is the role we must play.

The 21st century can and must be an American century. It began with terror, war, and economic calamity. It is our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom, peace, and prosperity.

The torch America carries is one of decency and hope. It is not America’s torch alone. But it is America’s duty – and honor – to hold it high enough that all the world can see its light.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

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