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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Speaking in Jerusalem, Romney Delivers Defense of Israel


JERUSALEM -Speaking before a crowd full of donors and supporters here on the holiday of Tisha B'av, Mitt Romney asserted his belief that Israel should be able to protect itself against the threat of a nuclear Iran.

“We recognize Israel's right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with you,” he said, speaking as the sun set on Jerusalem's Old City.

Though Mr. Romney laid out no detail policy plans, the strongest portion of his speech dealt with the challenges he believes the United States and Israel face in preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capabilities.

“We have a solemn duty and a moral imperative to deny Iran's leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intentions,” Mr. Romney said. “We should stand with all who would join our effort to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran - and that includes Iranian dissidents. Don't erase from your memory the scenes from three years ago, when that regime brought to death its own people as they rose up.”

He added that preventing Iran from gaining such nuclear capabilities “must be our highest national security priority.”

In his remarks, Mr. Romney's appeared to step back from comments a senor aide made prior to the speech.

Earlier in the day, Dan Senor, a senior Romney foreign policy adviser who helped orchestrate Mr. Romney's visit here, told reporters that Mr. Romney would express - several times - that it was “unacceptable” for Iran to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons and his view that Israel does have the right to take action against Iran.

“If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision,” Mr. Senor said.

A short time later however, the Romney campaign issued a statement that seemed to slightly soften its statement.

“Governor Romney believes we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is his fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so,” Mr. Senor said in an e-mail statement released by the campaign. “In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. Governor Romney recognizes Israel's right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with it.”

Then, in an interview on CBS' “Face the Nation,” Mr. Romney said: “I'll use my own words and that is I respect the right of Israel to defend itself and we stand with Israel.”

“We're two nations that come together in peace and that want to see Iran being dissuaded from its nuclear folly,” he said.

“Because I'm on foreign soil,” Mr. Romney said, “I don't want to be creating new foreign policy for my country or in any way to distance myself from the foreign policy of our nation, but we respect the right of a nation to defend itsel f.”

Cheney Says Sarah Palin Was Not Ready to Be Vice President


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Former Vice President Dick Cheney said that Sarah Palin was not ready to be his successor and that picking her was “a mistake” that Mitt Romney should seek to avoid with his choice.

Speaking to Jonathan Karl of ABC News in his first interview since undergoing heart transplant surgery in March, Mr. Cheney said that considerations other than an a bility to serve as vice president were clearly present in Senator John McCain's choice of Ms. Palin.

Mr. Karl asked whether a presidential candidate should consider how well a vice presidential nominee might appeal in a particular state or to a demographic group.

“Those are important issues, but they should never be allowed to override that first proposition. That was one of the problems McCain had,” Mr. Cheney said.

“I like Governor Palin. I've met her. I know her,” Mr. Cheney said, calling Ms. Palin an “attractive candidate” in 2008. “But based on her background, she had only been governor for, what, two years? I don't think she passed that test of being ready to take over. And I think that was a mistake.”

Mr. Cheney has been an outspoken critic of President Obama, but was silenced by health troubles in the past year. He received a heart transplant in March and has been recovering at his home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Mr. Karl interviewed him there. The full interview will be shown Monday on ABC news programs.

In the brief excerpt shown on Sunday, Mr. Cheney did not criticize Mr. Obama. But Mr. Karl hinted that the former vice president does not hold back in the rest of the interview.

“No question: Cheney is back. He feels much better,” Mr. Karl said on ABC's “This Week” program. “He says he hasn't felt this good for years. And he is certainly not holding back. You'll hear what he said about Obama - some of his harshest criticism yet tomorrow.”

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

The Agenda: In Interview, Romney Brings Arab Spring into Presidential Race


Mitt Romney on Saturday explicitly sought for the first time to turn the Arab Spring into an issue in the United States presidential race. In an interview with an Israeli newspaper to set up his visit to Israel this weekend, Mr. Romney made several provocative statements distinguishing himself from President Obama.

The Agenda

Middle East stability and security, post-Arab Spring.

Mr. Romney discussed the Arab Spring revolts as a problem rather than progress. He asserted against some evidence that the Obama administration had abandoned an agenda of pushing for democratic reform pursued by George W. Bush, and he characterized even the most moderate and Western-friendly Islamists â€" those in the political parties leading legislatures in Tunisia and Morocco â€" as political opponents. The last runs counter to the Obama administration's strategy, endorsed by some Republicans in Congress, of building alliances with moderate Islamists where possible.

- Read the Full Interview '

Romney Visits Western Wall


JERUSALEM - Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, made an unscheduled stop at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City Sunday afternoon, and both placed a prayer in one of the wall's many cracks.

Mr. Romney arrived at the Western Wall on Tisha B'av - a solemn holiday commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Jewish Temples of Jerusalem - but Mr. Romney's security detail and name recognition rendered the scene at the Western Wall a bit more scene-y than usual. Barricades were set up to block off the front area, and women stood on chairs to peer over at Mr. Romney from their segregated section to the right. Some in the crowd shouted out greetings more typical of campaign rallies than the Western Wall - “Jerusalem, the capital of Israel!” and “Beat Obama, governor!”

Mr. Romney was also accompanied to the wall by Rabbi Schmuel Rabinowitz, the chief rabbi of the wall, as well as a coterie of aides and donors - Spencer Zwick, his national finance chairman; J. Philip Rosen, a partner in the New York law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges who owns a home here and gives frequently to Republican candidates; L.E. Simmons, the founder of a private equity firm with a focus on oil; Bob White, the chairman of Mr. Romney's campaign, as well as a close friend; Lanhee Chen, Mr. Romney's foreign policy adviser; and Rick Gorka, a traveling spokesman for the campaign.

A small crowd applauded when Mr. and Mrs. Romney exited their motorcade, before proceeding to separate portions of the wall, which is partitioned off by gender. Mr. Romney was immediately mobbed, but he shook hands and greeted the crowd - “Very nice to meet you, good to see you,” Mr. Romney said, as onlookers snapped pictures - while trying to remain solemn.

Mr. Romney, wearing a black yarmulke, was then handed a piece of paper, on which he wrote a note to insert i nto the wall, as is traditional. He approached the Wall, bowed his head, and placed his right hand on the Wall. After several moments, he reached up and stuck his folder note into a crack on the wall.

Rabbi Rabinowitz gave a Mr. Romney a book, “Touching the Stone of Our Heritage,” and Mr. Romney passed it to his body man, Garrett Jackson.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Romney walked up to a portion of the wall that had also been blocked off, inserted her note, and paused for several minutes, her right hand against the brick. She then slowly turned and began walking back to the motorcade, still accompanied by a local guide who briefed her on the Wall's history. Though several well-wishers shouted out compliments about her husband - “We are pulling for Mitt! We want Mitt! We need a real leader!” - Mrs. Romney simply smiled and nodded. When a pool reporter asked her what her prayer had said, she again smiled - and ignored the question.

Mr. and Mrs. Romney eventually returned to their motorcade, returning to the King David Hotel, where they're staying. But before he left, two women peering over at the spectacle below tried to puzzle out the meaning of Mr. Romney's visit.

“He must love Jewish if he come here,” offered the first woman, but her friend had an alternate theory.

“It's political,” she said.

Romney to Back Israel\'s Right to Strike Iran, Aide Says


JERUSALEM - In a speech here Sunday evening, Mitt Romney plans to assert that he respects Israel's right to take pre-emptive action against Iran to prevent the country from developing nuclear capabilities that could be used for a bomb.

In a briefing with reporters before the speech, Dan Senor, a senior Romney foreign policy advisor who helped orchestrate Mr. Romney's stop here, said that Mr. Romney would express - several times - his belief that it is “unacceptable” for Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability, including his view that Israel reserves the right to take action against Iran.

“If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision,” Mr. Senor said.

Previewing Mr. Romney's remarks, Mr. Senor explained: “It is not enough just to stop Iran from developing a nuclear program. The capability, even if that capabi lity is short of weaponization, is a pathway to weaponization, and the capability gives Iran the power it needs to wreak havoc in the region and around the world.”

At the annual Herzliya Conference in 2007, Mr. Romney took a strong stance against Iran, arguing that the country's nuclear capabilities must, can, and will be stopped. But the message coming out of Mr. Romney's campaign in advance of his speech represents a ratcheting up of his previous position on Iran.

In excerpts released by his campaign, Mr. Romney plans to stress the importance of protecting Israel's right to defend itself against Iran.

“But today, the regime in Iran is five years closer to developing nuclear weapons capability,” Mr. Romney's prepared remarks say. “Preventing that outcome must be our highest national security priority.”