Romney says US is less safe now

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney joined Bush administration officials, including the former vice president, Dick Cheney, yesterday in arguing that President Obama’s approach to combating terrorism had left the country less safe.

By Sasha Issenberg
Boston Globe Correspondent 

“It’s the very kind of thinking that left America vulnerable to the attacks of Sept. 11th,” Romney told the National Rifle Association’s annual gathering. “And the approval of left-wing law professors and editorial boards won’t be worth much if this country lets down its guard and suffers an attack.”

Even while declaring an end to interrogation practices he calls “torture,” Obama has alienated many in his own party with a cautious approach to the issue. He has rebuffed calls to investigate Bush administration policymakers and release photographs that military leaders have said would be unnecessarily provocative.

Yesterday, the White House announced it would resume the use of military commissions to try those in American custody, a practice that Obama had criticized as a candidate.

“I’m glad he’s continuing to hold military tribunals for terrorists,” said Romney, who also said he approved of Obama’s hawkish approach to ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “In fact, whenever he adopts the policies of John McCain and George W. Bush like this, I’m glad.”

Romney, who ran for president in 2008, was the closing speaker on an agenda that included Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele and McCain, last year’s Republican presidential nominee. The stop was Romney’s latest on a circuit of conservative interest groups that many Republicans see as the opening lap in a prospective 2012 campaign.

Despite Romney’s solidarity with their priorities, gun owners were slow to rally behind him as a candidate. Romney joined the National Rifle Association only shortly before becoming a national candidate and did not own a gun. He reluctantly acknowledged that he had only been hunting twice in his life and had focused on prey such as rodents and rabbits. “Small varmints, if you will,” he said then.

Yesterday Romney was warmly received as he paid tribute to gun rights. Most of his speech, however, was devoted to the day’s broadest critique of a Democratic agenda he said amounted to “the greatest federal power-grab in American history.”

Romney took issue with Obama’s plans to change the healthcare system, which is based partially on the plan Romney helped enact in Massachusetts: mandating that citizens carry insurance.

“The best path to healthcare reform is to let the American people make their own decisions, not have those decisions forced on them by government,” Romney said. “Let Washington choose the stamps for the Post Office, but let the American people choose who we want for our doctor.”

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