PARK CITY, Utah – Mitt Romney delivered a sweeping, campaign-style policy address at a private donor retreat here Friday, condemning President Obama’s foreign policy as “a monumental bust” and assailing Hillary Rodham Clinton’s record as secretary of state.
Romney, the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, sounded like a candidate again as he laid out an agenda on foreign affairs and domestic issues like education and immigration that he said would restore America’s standing around the world. He spoke at a private “ideas summit” he is hosting in Park City this weekend with heavyweight donors and policy advisers.
Romney cited the rise of jihadism, the Taliban’s resilience in Afghanistan and the current turmoil in Iraq as evidence that Obama’s foreign policy is failing. He accused Obama of offering to meet with the leaders of Cuba, North Korea and Iran and bypassing Israel during his first trip abroad as president.
“The world saw all this for what it was – a foreign policy of withdrawal from leadership, and accommodation,” Romney said. He added, “The Obama-Biden-Hillary Clinton foreign policy is a monumental bust.”
Romney delivered particularly biting critiques of Clinton, the clear favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. He repeatedly cited her by name, at one point saying she “actually presented Russia’s foreign minister with a large, plastic button labeled ‘reset.’”
Romney referred to Clinton’s comments during her book tour this week: “Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that some world leaders ‘may not be happy’ when they read her new book. ‘I’m looking at you, Vladimir,’ she said. Please, this is from a woman who was gushing with smiles when she presented a minion of Vladimir Putin with that red ‘reset’ button.”
Romney has insisted he is not interested in running for president again in 2016, but his speech here is sure to stoke another round of speculation. Even if Romney is not interested in a campaign, he made clear he wants to lead, wants his ideas on the state of affairs to be heard, and wants to play a role in shaping the political debate heading into the 2016 campaign.
“I lost the election, we lost the election, but I and we will continue to fight,” Romney said, speaking in a theater-in-the-round setting and receiving warm applause from about 300 business leaders, donors and other supporters.
Several potential 2016 candidates are here, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), who was Romney’s vice presidential running-mate in 2012.
Asked by reporters whether he had anything to add to Romney’s critique of Clinton’s foreign policy record, Ryan replied simply, “What Mitt said.”
Paul spoke to donors early Friday morning in a speech that was closed to the press, but that attendees said was favorably received. They said Paul spoke about immigration, voter ID laws, education, criminal justice and economic opportunity.
Romney said the United States must maintain its “military lead,” reversing defense budget cuts that he characterized as devastating and providing “honorable care” for its veterans. “I am sick of the military-cut crowd,” Romney said.
Romney also said the country needs to strengthen its “core” domestically. “Fix education, fix immigration, fix entitlements and deficits, fix the marriage penalty, fix our energy policy, and act boldly to ignite economic growth,” Romney said. “I am sad to say that there has been no progress whatsoever on any one of these fronts over the last five years.”
Romney described his lunch meeting at the White House with Obama in late 2012, following the election. He said he would not share what Obama told him, but shared what he told the president. He said he told Obama that if he had the chance to be president, he would think seriously about what has led the United States to become the most powerful nation economically, militarily and morally, and what it would take to continue leading the world.
“I don’t know exactly what the president stands for,” Romney said. “I presume some would say social justice. That may mean taking from some to give to others. The question is, giving to whom? Does the social justice include just Americans or does it include people of the entire world?”
Romney, whom the Obama campaign attacked as being an out-of-touch plutocrat too cozy with Wall Street, defended the leaders of high finance in his speech. During the campaign, Romney said, he came to know John Whitehead, a former chief executive of the “highly-denigrated Goldman Sachs.”
“Some people in our country would accuse a person like that, because of his wealth and power, they see him only as a man of Wall Street,” Romney said. “But that man, John Whitehead, was also a soldier and he was one of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy 70 years ago. Poor or rich, we are Americans.”