Total Pageviews

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On the Trail in Colorado, Obama Tries Balancing Campaigning With Mideast Events


GOLDEN, Colo. â€" President Obama spent the second day of what was to be an upbeat swing through the politically vital Mountain West on Thursday balancing the somber tone that a foreign policy crisis demands and the hyper-partisan rhetoric that eight thousand Coloradoans came to hear.

At an outdoor rally under a clear blue sky here, where the crowd was so excited that it cheered a flock of squawking geese overhead before the president spoke, Mr. Obama began with a somber reminder that four Americans had been killed in Benghazi, Libya, more than 6,000 miles away.

“Obviously, our hearts are heavy this week,'' Mr. Obama said, as a hush fell over the crowd. But to a wider television audience he vowe d: “I want people around the world to hear me: to all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished.” He added, “no act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America.”

But he went from there into the new, convention-tested stump speech he would have given had anti-American protests not broken out in Libya and Egypt on Tuesday, and in Yemen on Thursday.

The president drew cheers for mentioning Bill Clinton and his convention speech line about the Republicans' budget arithmetic and laughs when he riffed that Republicans are seeking to solve all the nation's problems with tax cuts: “You need to make a restaurant reservation, you don't need a new iPhone: there's a tax cut for that,” he said.

One word that went unspoken here on Thursday: Romney. Instead, Mr. Obama made reference to his “opponent,'' which aides said was prompted by the president's desire to remain mindful of the ton e of his political rhetoric amid the events in the Middle East.

Aides also said they wanted to stay out of the way as Mr. Romney continues to take questions about his initial tone on the crisis and the administration's response to it.

White House officials said they were planning to avoid getting drawn into a political argument over the killings in Libya, and telegraphed comfort with the campaign debate moving onto foreign policy turf, which they consider better for them than Mr. Romney, whose campaign has rested mostly on his economic arguments.

But it was not all smooth sailing. On the way to the event here Mr. Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, was forced to address questions about Mr. Obama's comments to the Spanish language network Telemundo that he does not consider the new government of Egypt either an ally or a foe.

Mr. Carney said: “The president, in diplomatic and legal terms, was speaking correctly. We do not have an alliance treaty wi th Egypt. Ally is a legal term of art. As I said, we do not have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt, like we do, for example, with our NATO allies. But as the president has said, Egypt is a longstanding and close partner of the United States and we have built on that foundation in supporting Egypt's transition to democracy and working with the new government.”