In his first full speech since disclosing his interest in running for President for a third time, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Wednesday night took verbal shots at likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on both foreign and economic policy – tying her closely to President Barack Obama.
According to remarks prepared for an address Romney delivered to students at Mississippi State University, Romney said Clinton as Secretary of State “cluelessly pressed a reset button with Russia,” and that she “doesn’t know where jobs come from.”
The Democratic National Committee responded that Romney is ill-equipped to talk about jobs because he is “best known for bankrupting companies and profiting off of outsourcing.”
Romney said he has “three concerns that are foremost in my mind’ — clear threats to the security of the nation and the world, restoring “opportunity” for the middle class and a need to “lift people out of poverty.” These appear to be the basic themes of his likely third attempt at winning the White House in 2016.
Since making it clear he is seriously considering running again, Romney delivered brief remarks to the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in San Diego on Jan. 16.
Tonight’s address was his first full speech since then and was part of the university’s Global Lecture Series. The speech was scheduled in December, several weeks before he told donors he was considering another presidential campaign.
There was no mention or even veiled reference to other Republicans who are expected to run for President, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Romney focused directly on Clinton and Obama in remarks that almost have a general election message.
On national and international security, Romney said Obama’s “dismissal of real global threats in his State of the Union address was naive at best and deceptive at worst. We have only recently mourned with the people of France. Our hearts likewise go out to the people of Nigeria and Yemen. Hundreds and perhaps thousands were slaughtered by radical jihadists. ISIS represents a new level of threat given its oil revenues, vast territory, and ability to recruit even in the West. I don’t know how the President expects to defeat the jihadists if he won’t even call them what they are.”
He was then critical of Clinton, saying that as Secretary of State, she “cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia, which smiled and then invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation. The Middle East and much of North Africa is in chaos. China grows more assertive and builds a navy that will be larger than ours in five years. We shrink our nuclear capabilities as Russia upgrades theirs.
“Doesn’t the President understand that some of what we are seeing in the world is in part the result of his timid foreign policy, of walking away from his red line in Syria, of paring back our military budget, and of insulting friends like Israel and Poland? Strong American leadership is desperately needed for the world, and for America.”
Romney told the students that in the short-term, “our economy is looking up. But it is a lot better for the few, and pretty darn discouraging for the many. Incomes haven’t gone up in decades. And I can’t count how many recent college graduates I met who expected a high paying job at graduation and instead were waiting tables.”
He criticized Clinton on the economic front as well, recalling her remarks in October that businesses do not create jobs – remarks she later clarified.
“How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn’t know where jobs come from in the first place?” Romney says. “And how does President Obama expect to make America the best place on earth for businesses, as he promised in his State of the Union address, if he persists in business taxation that is the highest in the developed world, regulations that favor the biggest banks and crush the small ones, a complex and burdensome healthcare plan, and a slanted playing field for unions and trial lawyers. We need a president who will do what it takes to bring more good paying jobs to the placement offices of our college campuses.”
To “lift people out of poverty,” Romney said, “It’s finally time to apply conservative policies that improve America’s education system, promote family formation and create goo-paying jobs.”
He said that during his 2012 campaign for President, “I met folks who had fallen into poverty as result of an unfortunate event, like losing a job. These folks were almost uniformly optimistic about finding their way back into the middle class. But I also met folks who had been in poverty from generation to generation. These we have to help escape the tragedy and the trap of chronic generational poverty. For 50 years and with trillions of dollars, Washington has fought the war on poverty with failed liberal policies. They haven’t made any headway whatsoever.”
DNC spokesman Mo Elliethee responded, “We don’t really need to hear a lecture on ‘where jobs come from’ from a guy who’s best known for bankrupting companies and profiting off of outsourcing. Under this administration, we just saw the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s, and we’ve created 11 million private sector jobs. I don’t know if Mitt Romney thinks 47 percent of those folks are ‘takers,’ but I am sure he’s not the right guy to talk about expanding opportunity.”
Romney has yet to make a public appearance in first-primary state New Hampshire since he began considering a 2016 campaign.