Slide by slide, Romney ticked through 20 mistakes, from Obama’s “Middle East apology tour” to the president’s lack of support for Iran’s green revolution to the administration’s infamous “reset” with Russia.
“With all that bad news, is it not true that arguably President Obama is the worst foreign policy president in history?” Romney asked. “I think he is.”
Next came the slides about Obama’s first-term secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner. First, Romney showed a map of the globe, colored in for all the countries she visited.
Then he mocked her.
“Secretary of Schlep,” the next slide read.
“She was everywhere,” Romney said, but he insisted she made “mistake after mistake after mistake.”
In the back of the room, Robert Gates — Obama’s former secretary of defense, Clinton’s Cabinet Room ally and a featured speaker at the Romney conclave — listened awkwardly alongside news anchor Katie Couric.
Romney’s use of PowerPoint to illustrate his frustrations with Obama’s leadership was perhaps the most telling moment of his three-day E2 (for Experts and Enthusiasts) gathering, a donor confab that drew six presidential candidates as featured guests.
The presentation hinted at the kind of president Romney would have been — technocratic and hawkish. At one point, he showed how he would have reorganized the State Department bureaucracy by dividing the map into color-coded regions to exert soft power, much the way military commanders do at the Pentagon.
It also underscored his continued and keen interest in global affairs during his political winter. After critiquing Obama, Romney laid out a plan for getting the United States on what he called “the right course.”
“Strengthen, organize and strategize,” Romney said. “By the way, that’s S.O.S., and we do need help.”
Romney’s blame was not directed solely at Obama. He called former president George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq “a mistake.”
“I certainly supported it at the time, but today, given what we know, it was a mistake,” Romney said.
Romney reserved particular ire for Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the 2012 campaign, he was mocked for saying Russia was “our number-one geopolitical foe,” although many GOP analysts now say he has been proven prescient by Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.
With a slide titled, “What’s Putin’s strategy?” Romney deplored the reach of Putin’s propaganda. “Russia TV,” he said. “I mean, I turn on my TV here — and there’s RT!”
After Romney finished his speech to respectful applause, loyalists whispered that he could be positioning to be secretary of state in the next Republican administration.
But the atmosphere shifted quickly — and in a most undiplomatic way. The projection screens moved from Romney’s PowerPoint presentation to video clips of Romney, shirtless and sweating, in his charity boxing match with heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.