Romney accuses Obama of playing politics

Last modified: 12/23/2011 12:00:00 AM
After months campaigning against the policies of President Obama, Mitt Romney said yesterday he would consider turning to personal critiques during a general election campaign.

In an interview with the Monitor on his campaign bus in the northern town of Bethlehem, Romney said he believes Obama has made decisions as president to better his chances of winning re-election rather than serve the interests of the country. He said he will be highly critical of Obama's decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan months earlier than recommended by military commanders.

"I think anytime you put the interests of your re-election ahead of the interests of the nation, you're showing a side of character which is not befitting the president of the United States," he said.

Romney said Obama's campaign is already attacking him on a personal basis.

"They indicated that their strategy is to 'kill Mitt Romney,' which is a disconcerting thought if you happen to be Mitt Romney," he said. "I will call it as I see it with regards to the president."

Romney toured the North Country yesterday on the second day of a bus trip across New Hampshire ahead of the Jan. 10 presidential primary. He bought a North Face jacket for his wife at a shop in Lancaster before discussing dairy cow production with a woman outside an Agway feed and hardware store down the road. He showed off a photo from his 2008 campaign on the wall of a mom-and-pop grocery in Randolph. In Berlin, he was about to board his bus when a woman on the street asked to show him her home. When she wanted to drive, he took off running after the car, leaving reporters and photographers straggling behind him down the empty street.

At the Agway store, Romney told reporters that he enjoys the personal interactions of retail campaigning.

"The best, most enjoyable part of this process is meeting people and hearing people's personal circumstances," he said. "Riding around in a nice bus like this, seeing folks from place to place. This is kind of the best part of it."

The day's travails also appeared to win Romney at least a few supporters, though some of the stops in the sparsely populated North Country had only a handful of attendees. After speaking with Romney about her 4-H experiences at the Agway store, Jessica Hebert of Jefferson said she plans to vote for him. Hebert, 32, voted for Obama in 2008 but said the economy has made her fear for her family's financial stability. She said meeting Romney made the difference.

"Meeting somebody face to face is a different perspective than when you see them on TV," she said.

In the morning interview on his bus, Romney discussed a range of topics related to his presidential bid. At campaign events, the former Massachusetts governor often talks about working with Democrats when he was in office. At yesterday's final event, a town hall meeting in Conway, he described building relationships with legislative leaders of the other party. In the interview, Romney said he would not rule out nominating a Democrat to his cabinet.

"I'll consider the best people for the positions," he said. "I would not exclude Democrats and independents from consideration."

In his youth, Romney lived two-and-a-half years in France as a Mormon missionary, and yesterday he took part in a brief conversation in the French language with a woman in a Lancaster clothing store who mentioned she originally was from Quebec.

On the campaign trail, he often refers to the nations of Europe as an inspiration to Obama and an example to himself of how not to run government. On Wednesday night at an American Legion post in Ashland, Romney used Europe as an example of a society where government creates poverty by distributing wealth.

"I don't believe a path to make us more like Europe will make us stronger," he said at the event. "I don't think Europe is working in Europe. I know it won't work here."

In the interview yesterday, Romney said there are policies of European nations that could be worth considering in the United States. Switzerland, he said, has a health care model where people pay about 20 percent of their medical bills, giving them an incentive to consider cost when making medical decisions.

"I'm not going to adopt a Swiss health care system, but the power of incentives in a co-insurance model that the Swiss have is something states might want to look at," he said. "So there are many things, in addition to good food, that we can learn from our European friends. But what I don't want is to adopt a strategy of ever-shrinking government support of the military and ever-increasing support for government programs."

Romney cites his career leading a private equity firm as preparation for turning around the economy, and he said yesterday that his business experience, as well as his work leading the Salt Lake City Olympics, also prepare him to lead the United States in foreign policy.

"I've worked in many countries around the world and negotiated in many countries around the world," he said. "I've also led the Olympics in Salt Lake City and worked with leaders of other nations. The skills of leadership and negotiation translate quite well from the private sector to the public sector."

Between campaign stops yesterday, Romney received a call on his bus from former president George H.W. Bush declaring his support. Bush told the Houston Chronicle he was giving his support - but not his endorsement - to Romney's bid for president. When he got off the bus in Berlin, Romney told reporters he had wished the former president a merry Christmas and thanked him for his support.

"His leadership, his heroic life and his friendship mean a great deal to me," Romney said. "I must admit this is much more important to me personally than even politically. He's a real hero to me and my family, and I appreciate his support."

Romney traveled to Houston a few weeks ago to meet the former president and his wife, Barbara, at their home. But the candidate told reporters yesterday he hadn't known Bush would offer public support.

"I had no idea that was coming," he said.

Romney is scheduled to conclude his trip today with morning appearances at the Tilt'n Diner in Tilton and French's Toy Shop and Dos Amigos Burritos in Concord.

(Karen Langley can be reached at 369-3316 or klangley@cmonitor.com.)




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