Bloomberg View columnist William Cohan and Democratic strategist Julian Epstein discuss why Mitt Romney is still fumbling for answers over his 2011 tax return – despite their Friday release – and whether he’ll ever be able to explain how he pays for his proposed, across-the-board tax cuts.
DENVER -- Mitt Romney today attempted to shift focus to what he called President Barack Obama's lack of leadership in the Middle East, as world leaders began to gather in New York City for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Romney campaign this afternoon offered a series of interviews with major U.S. TV networks, in which Romney hammered Obama for referring to a series of flare-ups in the Middle East as "bumps in the road."
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"When the president was speaking about 'bumps in the road' he was talking about the developments in the Middle East, and that includes an assassination. It includes a Muslim Brotherhood individual becoming president of Egypt. It includes Syria being in tumult," Romney told NBC's Peter Alexander. "It includes Iran being on the cusp of nuclear capability. It includes Pakistan being in commotion."
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Romney continued, "There are extraordinary events going on in the Middle East, and considering those events, either one of them or all of them collectively, as bumps in the road shows a person who has a very different perspective about world affairs than the perspective I have. I think this is a time for America to exert leadership and this is not something that we are doing in the Middle East ... ."
Romney was referring to an answer Obama gave in an interview which aired last night on CBS News' "60 Minutes," in which the president defended his support for emerging governments in the Middle East as a result of the Arab spring.
Charles Dharapak / AP
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney boards his plane in Denver, Monday, Sept. 24, 2012.
Kroft: Have the events that took place in the Middle East, the recent events in the Middle East given you any pause about your support for the governments that have come to power following the Arab Spring?
Obama: Well, I'd said even at the time that this is going to be a rocky path. The question presumes that somehow we could have stopped this wave of change. I think it was absolutely the right thing for us to do to align ourselves with democracy, universal rights, a notion that people have to be able to participate in their own governance. But I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road because, you know, in a lot of these places, the one organizing principle has been Islam. The one part of society that hasn't been controlled completely by the government. There are strains of extremism, and anti-Americanism, and anti-Western sentiment. And, you know, can be tapped into by demagogues. There will probably be some times where we bump up against some of these countries and have strong disagreements, but I do think that over the long term we are more likely to get a Middle East and North Africa that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more aligned with our interests.
The Romney campaign seized on those comments -- in an attempt to chip away at the president's approval rating on foreign affairs, which slid in the last NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll to 49 percent.
(However, a series of NBC/WSJ/Marist polls in the battleground states of Colorado, Iowa, and Wisconsin show Obama enjoying a double-digit lead over Romney when it comes to who would better handle foreign policy.)
NBC's Peter Alexander spoke with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Denver about the upcoming debates, world affairs, and if it is possible to change the tone in Washington.
The Obama White House fired back on Romney, arguing that it was "offensive" to suggest that the president was minimizing the deaths of four Americans in Libya, including the U.S. ambassador there.
"That assertion is both desperate and offensive," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. "The president was referring to the transformations in the region, to this process that has -- only began less than two years ago, as we saw in Tunisia, and continues to this day, with remarkable transformations occurring in countries around the region."
Also in the interview, NBC's Alexander pressed Romney on the current polling that shows him trailing Obama.
Romney remained defiant.
"I'm very pleased with the fact that we have a campaign that is taking our message to the people across America, and look --- we're gonna win," Romney said. "There is no question in my mind. We're gonna win."
NBC's Jordan Frasier contributed to this article.