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State of the Union
Mitt Romney Speaks in Jerusalem; Interview with Tim Roemer
Aired July 29, 2012 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington, and we are just moments away from Mitt Romney's foreign policy speech in Jerusalem. Right now we want to show you a live picture where we expect to see Romney any minute.
He is at a community center in Jerusalem. He -- the backdrop is spectacular. And we will be looking at the Tower of David and the Old City Wall behind him when Mitt Romney speaks.
Also, somewhere in that area is our Jim Acosta who is covering the Romney campaign. I want to bring you in, Jim, and have you tell me, when Romney left, he said he did not -- he would not criticize the president. And yet he is there to define some differences. How does he walk that line?
And here Mitt Romney coming in, we see.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, Candy, I should mention Mitt Romney is arriving now. Make no mistake; he is going to be drawing some contrast with President Obama, even though he might not explicitly criticize the president on this speech.
He's going to give a very tough speech on the subject of Iran and that country's nuclear ambitions. According to an excerpt released by his campaign, he's going to say: "Make no mistake; the ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defenses. They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way. My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same," he's going to say, "I will not look away, and neither will my country."
Candy, earlier today he met with the leader of this nation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who really threw his full support, it seemed at times, behind Mitt Romney, and said that sanctions against Iran have not worked, in his words, "one iota."
And perhaps the highlight of this trip occurred earlier today when Mitt Romney and Mrs. Romney visited the Western Wall. It is one of the most sacred sites in the Jewish faith. And it was received well by some Orthodox Jewish-Americans who I talked to on the scene earlier today.
They told me that, in their words, President Obama does not get it, Mitt Romney does -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Jim, while we await to see Mitt Romney take to the microphone, the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, is introducing him. I want to ask you, we know here at home that the political audience that Mitt Romney is hoping to reach are American Jewish voters as well as evangelical Christians who have a strong tie to Israel. But who is he talking to there?
ACOSTA: Well, I will tell you, there are plenty of Jewish- Americans who live in Israel and vote in American elections. He will be reaching out and talking to that audience. There are donors here as well to his campaign, Candy. We can report that Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, who has donated millions of dollars to the pro- Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, he is on hand.
And, of course, he's speaking to a larger audience back in the United States. And keep in mind, the president enjoys a very substantial margin of support over Mitt Romney when it comes to Jewish-Americans. He's ahead by some 68 to 25 percent according to the latest Gallup poll.
If Mitt Romney can peel away tens of thousands of those voters, that might make a difference in places like Florida, Candy. So obviously that's part of the calculation as well.
CROWLEY: All right. Jim Acosta. I'm also joined by CNN's Wolf Blitzer who is in our Jerusalem bureau. Wolf just wrapped up a lengthy interview with Governor Romney.
Tell me, Wolf, is there a headline that pertains to this visit you can share with us?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He did say flatly that he regards Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Candy. And he said that he would very much like to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
As you know, since the 1967 war when Israel captured East Jerusalem, which was then under Jordanian control, no U.S. president has ever recognized East Jerusalem, including the Old City of Jerusalem, as being part of Israel under Israeli sovereignty. And the U.S. has always kept its embassy in Tel Aviv as opposed to being in Jerusalem.
So I asked him how he felt about that. I asked him specifically, do you think that Jerusalem is Israel's capital? And he said absolutely he does. I said, do you think that the United States should move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? He said that would be the goal, but he said if he were elected president, he would consult with the Israeli government.
And if the Israeli government said, yes, we would like to see that U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, he suggested to me that he would go ahead and do it even though no U.S. president over these many years since 1967, going back to LBJ or Nixon or Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, any of the presidents, both presidents Bush or Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, for that matter, they've always kept the embassy in Tel Aviv.
So he said he would consult with the Israeli government, and if they said...
CROWLEY: Hey, Wolf?
BLITZER: ... move it, he would move it. But...
CROWLEY: Sorry, let me interrupt you, you've done this many times, I know, Mitt Romney is speaking at the podium. We want to go there. Thank you. We'll talk to you after the speech.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... among the most impressive democracies on earth. Israel's achievements are a wonder of the modern world. These achievements are a tribute to the resilience of the Israeli people.
You've managed against all odds, time and again, throughout your history to persevere, to rise up, and to emerge stronger. The historian Paul Johnson, writing on the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state, said that over the course of Israel's life, 100 completely new independent states had come into existence. Quote: "Israel is the only one whose creation can fairly be called a miracle," he wrote.
It's a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ROMNEY: Our two nations are separated by more than 5,000 miles. But for an American abroad, you can't get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country than you do in Israel.
We're part of the great fellowship of democracies. We speak the same language of freedom and justice and the right of every person to live in peace. We serve the same cause, and we provoke the same hatreds in the same enemies of civilization.
It is my firm conviction that the security of Israel is in the vital national security interest of the United States.
ROMNEY: Ours is not an alliance based only on shared interests, but also in enduring shared values. In those shared values, one of the strongest voices is that of your prime minister, my friend, Benjamin Netanyahu. I met with him earlier this morning. And I look forward to my family joining with his this evening as they close the fast of this Tishah B'Av day.
It's remarkable to consider how much adversity over so great a span of time is recalled by just one day on the calendar. This is a day of remembrance and mourning. But like other such occasions, it also calls forth clarity and resolve. At this time we also remember the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were massacred at the Munich Olympics 40 years ago.
ROMNEY: And 10 years ago this week, nine Israeli and American students were murdered in a terrorist attack at Hebrew University. Tragedies like these are not reserved to the past. They're a constant reminder of the reality of hate and the will with which that hate is executed upon the innocent.
Menachem Begin, who said this about the night of the month of Av. "We remember," he said, "and now have the responsibility to make sure that never again will our independence be destroyed and never again will the Jew become homeless or defenseless. This," he added, "is the crux of the problems facing us in the future."
So it is today as Israel faces enemies who deny past crimes against the Jewish people and seek to commit new ones, when Iran's leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this nation off the map, only the naive or worse would dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric.
Make no mistake, the ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defenses. They want to know who will object and who will look the other way. My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same.
We will not look away. Nor will my country ever look away from our passion and commitment to Israel.
ROMNEY: As Prime Minister Begin put it in vivid and haunting words, if an enemy of the Jewish people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him. We've seen the horrors of history. We will not stand by. We will not watch them play out again.
It would be foolish not to take Iran's leaders at their word. They are, after all, the product of a radical theocracy. Over the years Iran has amassed a brutal and bloody record. It has seized embassies, targeted diplomats, and killed its own people.
It supports the ruthless Assad regime in Syria. They provided weapons that have killed American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has plotted to assassinate diplomats on American soil. It is Iran that is the leading state sponsor of terrorism and the most destabilizing nation in the world.
We have a solemn duty and a moral imperative to deny Iran's leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intentions.
ROMNEY: We should stand with all who would join our effort to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, and that includes Iranian dissidents. Don't erase from your memory the scenes from three years ago when that regime brought to death its own people as they rose up. The threat we face does not come from the Iranian people but from the regime that oppresses them.
Five years ago at the Herzliya Conference, I stated my view that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons capability presents an intolerable threat to Israel, to America and to the world. That threat has only become worse. Now, as then, the regime's claims that it seeks to enrich nuclear material for peaceable purposes are belied by years of deception. Now as then the conduct of Iran's leaders gives us no reason to trust them with nuclear materiel. But today the regime in Iran is five years closer to developing nuclear weapons capability. Preventing that outcome must be our highest national security priority.
I want to pause on that point. It's sometimes said that those who were most committed to stopping the Iranian regime from securing nuclear weapons are reckless and provocative and inviting war. The opposite is true. We are the true peacemakers. History teaches with force and clarity that when the world's most despotic regimes secure the most destructive weapons, peace often gives way to oppression, to violence or to devastating war.
We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option. We must lead the effort to prevent Iran from building and possessing nuclear weapons capability. We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course. And it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so.
In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. We recognize Israel's right to defend itself and that it is right for America to stand with you.
ROMNEY: These are some of the principles I outlined five years ago at the Herzliya Conference. What was timely then has become urgent today. Let me turn from Iran to other nations in the Middle East where we've seen rising tumult and chaos. To the north, Syria is on the brink of a civil war. The dictator in Damascus, no friend to Israel, no friend to America, slaughters his own people as he desperately clings to power.
Your other neighbor to the north, Lebanon, is under the growing and dangerous influence of Hezbollah. After a year of upheaval and unrest, Egypt now has an Islamist president, chosen in a democratic election. Hopefully this new government understands that one true measure of democracy is how those elected by the majority respect the rights of those in the minority.
The international community must use its considerable influence to ensure that the new government honors the peace agreement with Israel that was signed by the government of Anwar Sadat.
(APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: As you know only to well, since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, thousands of rockets have rained on Israeli homes and cities. I've walked on the streets of Sderot, and honor the resolve of its people.
And now new attacks have been launched from the Sinai Peninsula with Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel from the north and Hamas rockets aimed from the south, with much of the Middle East in tumult, with Iran bent on nuclear arms, America's vocal and demonstrated commitment to the defense of Israel is even more critical.
Whenever the security of Israel is most in doubt, America's commitment to Israel must be most secure.
ROMNEY: When the decision was before him in 1948, President Harry Truman decided without hesitation that the United States would be the first country to recognize the State of Israel. From that moment of this, we've been the most natural of allies, but our alliance runs deeper than the designs of strategy or the weighing of interests. The story of how America, a nation still so new to the world by the standards of this ancient region, rose up to become the dear friend of the people of Israel as among the finest and most hopeful in our nation's history. Different as our paths have been, we see the same qualities in one another.
Israel and America are in many respects reflections of one another. We both believe in democracy, in the right of every people to select their leaders, and choose their nation's course. We both believe in the rule of law, knowing that in its absence, willful men may incline to oppress the weak. We both believe that our rights are universal, granted not by government but by our creator. We both believe in free enterprise because it is the only economic system that has lifted people from poverty, created a large and enduring middle class and that has inaugurated incomparable achievements in human flourishing.
Someone who spent most of his life in business, I'm particularly impressed with Israel's cutting-edge technologies and thriving economy. We recognize yours as the start-up nation. And the evidence is all around us. You have embraced economic liberty. You export technology, not tyranny or terrorism. And today your innovators and entrepreneurs have made the desert bloom and have made for a better world.
The citizens of our countries are fortunate to share in economic freedom and in the creativity of our respective entrepreneurs. What you have built here with your hands is a tribute to your people and a model for others throughout the world.
ROMNEY: Finally, we both believe in the freedom of expression because we are confident in our ideas and in the ability of our men and women to think for themselves. We don't fear open debate. You want to hear some very sharp criticisms of Israel and its policies, you don't have to cross any borders, all you have to do is walk down the street, step into a cafe, there you'll hear people reasoning, arguing or speaking their mind, or just pick up an Israeli newspaper. You'll find some of the toughest criticism of Israel you'll read anywhere.
Your nation, like ours, is stronger for this energetic exchange of ideas and opinions. That's the way it is in a free society. There are many millions of people in the Middle East who would cherish the opportunity to do the same thing. These decent men and women desire nothing more than to live in peace and freedom and to have the opportunity to not only choose their government but to criticize it openly without fear of repression or repercussion.
I believe that those who oppose these fundamental rights are on the wrong side of history. But history's march can be ponderously and painfully slow. We have a duty to shape history by being unapologetic ambassadors for the values we share. The United States and Israel have shown that we can build strong economies and strong militaries. But we must also build strong arguments that advance our values and promote peace. We must work together to change hearts and awaken minds through the power of freedom, free enterprise and human rights.
I believe that the enduring alliance between the state of Israel and the United States of America is more than a strategic alliance, it's a force for good in the world. America's support of Israel should make every American proud. We should not allow the inevitable complexities of modern geopolitics to obscure fundamental touchstones. No country or organization or individual should ever doubt this basic truth: a free and strong America will always stand with a free and strong Israel.
ROMNEY: And standing by Israel does not mean with military and intelligence cooperation alone. We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel voice their criticisms. And we certainly should not join in that criticism. Diplomatic distance in our public between our nations emboldens Israel's adversaries.
ROMNEY: By history and by conviction, our two countries are bound together. No individual, no nation, no world organization will pry us apart. As long as we stay together and stand together, there is no threat we cannot overcome and very little that we cannot achieve.
I love this country. I love America. I love the friendship and passion we have for the values which we share. Thank you for your support today. May God bless my country of America, and may he bless and protect the nation of Israel.
Thank you so much.
CROWLEY: That, of course, is the certain Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney, on a three-country tour of Europe. This is -- or of overseas. This, of course, in Israel, his backdrop today, the Tower of David, the old city walls. Very impressive and a very forceful speech.
I want to bring back in, if we have him, our Jim Acosta. Jim, when they set out to write this speech and reach an audience there and very much try to reach an audience here, what were they trying to get across?
ACOSTA: Well, I think they were trying to get across, Candy, a contrast with President Obama, perhaps not in policy but in tone. I mean, you could not pick a more dramatic backdrop to deliver the message that Mitt Romney delivered to this crowd here.
You know, he did not mention the president during this speech. He stuck to his promise to not criticize the president on foreign soil, but he did lay out some differences between himself and the president. He said that Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel. That is something that I think that is some news coming from Mitt Romney today. And that muscular speech that he gave or portions of his speech that he gave on Iran, I think, will also be remembered by the crowd here and by Jewish-Americans back home who are obviously very concerned about that country's nuclear program.
I will tell you, though, that all of this is sort of, you know, thrust into the middle of the campaign, and no surprise there. The Obama campaign is already putting out e-mails to reporters, noting when and where President Obama has authorized funding for military aid to Israel, authorized funding for missile defense program for Israel, and on and on. So both of these campaigns, while they're not directly going after each other while Mitt Romney is here, they are certainly doing it implicitly as much as they can, Candy.
CROWLEY: Yes, it's not too subtle.
I also want to bring in our Wolf Blitzer, who's in our bureau there in Jerusalem. Wolf, I know you spoke to Mitt Romney at length for an interview we're going to see tomorrow, but let me first start with and pick up with what Jim just said about no direct criticism of President Obama, but I thought there was the line about it's not enough just to have security cooperation. The president, as we know, signed a new security cooperation pact with Israel this week. And he said it's because we cannot stand silent when enemies of Israel go after Israel verbally, et cetera. It seemed to me that that was intended directly for President Obama.
BLITZER: It certainly was, Candy, because that was pretty blunt, if you will. He didn't mention the president by name. The argument that the president has been making and his supporters have been making is that the U.S./Israeli military-to-military relationship, intelligence-to-intelligence community relationship is better than it's ever been. And on that point, Romney seemed to acknowledge that, that the military and intelligence cooperation between Washington and Jerusalem is very, very strong. It's where Romney then went on to say, but that's not enough. You have to stand with Israel even when Israel is being criticized at international forums, whether at the United Nations or elsewhere. And the president of the United States can't criticize Israel's government openly publicly to a certain degree. I think he was referring to some of that awkward, shall we say, back-and-forth between the president of the United States, President Obama, and Prime Minister Netanyahu when Prime Minister Netanyahu was at the White House. They had that rather unpleasant exchange in the Oval Office. The president had delivered a speech a couple of days earlier at the State Department saying that any two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, the negotiations should begin based on the pre-1967 lines, with mutually agreed land swaps. That was certainly something that Romney has criticized, and many in Israel have criticized. They insist that the pre-'67 lines, even with some mutually agreed swaps, would not necessarily leave Israel in a strong defensible position.
By the way, in the interview with me today, Romney certainly reaffirmed that. He did come out in favor of a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine, but he -- the nuances, some of the subtleties were very different in how that would be achieved. What President Obama has publicly said and what Romney has publicly said.
I think the most sensitive point, though, is that Romney opened up his speech here that we just heard saying that Jerusalem is Israel's capital. And as you know, and our viewers know, Candy, since 1967 when Israel captured all of Jerusalem, West Jerusalem had been under Israel's control, but East Jerusalem, including the old city, all of that came under Israel's control. No U.S. government, no U.S. president has fully recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, nor has it moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Listen to this exchange that I had with Mitt Romney in the interview we conducted earlier in the day over at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
BLITZER: You consider Jerusalem where we're sitting, the King David Hotel here in Jerusalem, do you consider Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel?
ROMNEY: Yes, of course. A nation has the capacity to choose its own capital city, and Jerusalem is Israel's capital.
BLITZER: If you become president of the United States, would you move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
ROMNEY: I think it's long been the policy of our country to ultimately have our embassy in the nation's capital, Jerusalem. The decision to actually make the move is one, if I were president, I would want to take in consultation with the leadership of the government which exists at that time. So I would follow the same policy we have in the past. Our embassy would be in the capital. But that said, the timing of that is something I'd want to work out with the government. BLITZER: With the government of Israel?
ROMNEY: With the government of Israel.
BLITZER: But every Israeli government has always asked every U.S. government to recognize Jerusalem as the capital and to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
ROMNEY: Well, that would make the decision easy, but I'd still want to have that communication with the government leaders.
BLITZER: So just to be precise. If you're president, you would consult with the Israeli government. And if they said, please move the embassy, you would do that?
ROMNEY: I'm not going to make foreign policy for my nation, particularly while I'm on foreign soil. My understanding is the policy of our nation has been a desire to move our embassy ultimately to the capital. That's something which I would agree with. But I would only want to do so and to select the timing in accordance with the government of Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And later in the interview, Candy, I specifically mentioned that Mitt Romney earlier in the day had gone to the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Judaism. He had a prayer there, left a little -- he inscribed his signature there, if you will. He did what guests usually do at the Western Wall.
I asked him flatly, I said, "Governor, do you consider that area, the Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem, to be part of Israel?" And he responded, he said, "it is certainly part of Israel."
So this is going to cause a bit of a diplomatic uproar, if you will, certainly if Romney becomes president of the United States. But I'm sure there will be a negative reaction from many in the Arab world as a result. Not only the Palestinians, but elsewhere certainly in the Muslim community as well, with this rather stark statement that he made on Jerusalem being Israel's capital.
CROWLEY: Hey, wolf, thanks. Tell us when folks can see the interview in its entirety.
BLITZER: The entire interview will run Monday in THE SITUATION ROOM. We start at 4:0 p.m. Eastern. So the full interview -- we go through a lot, Candy, including a lot of domestic politics. And we go through some of the things he likes about the fund-raising apparatus (ph), some of the things he hates right now. We go through Iran and Syria and all of that. So I think the interview will be pretty eye- opening for our viewers, showing Mitt Romney to an important degree on many of these national security issues as well as some of the political issues back home.
CROWLEY: Wolf Blitzer, we look forward to it. Thanks for joining us today. Our thanks also to Jim Acosta covering the Romney campaign in Jerusalem.
When we come back, reaction to Mitt Romney's speech from ambassador and former Congressman Tim Roemer of the Obama campaign.
CROWLEY: Joining me is former Ambassador Timothy Roemer, foreign policy adviser for the Obama campaign.
So you, like -- you're a supporter, obviously, of the president.
Let me just start with the simplest of questions. Was there anything in that speech that the Obama foreign policy conflicts with?
ROEMER: Well, first of all, Candy, as you and I were talking off-air, the president has been to Jerusalem and to Israel twice. He's been to some of the cities...
CROWLEY: Not as the president, we should say, but go ahead.
ROEMER: When you go to Jerusalem and -- and Israel, it's so powerful, so compelling. Your heart comes out of your chest. You understand the shared values, the common interests. The president has been there, felt it. He's been in the southern cities where terrorists have rained rockets upon the people of Israel. That's why he signed, on Friday, even more money to help the Israelis put together the Iron Dome to protect them.
So is Governor Romney, when he says I would take the opposite view of President Obama on issues as they relate to Israel, would he not fund that particular dome?
The president has also been to Yad Vashem. He's visited the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. He's been to the -- the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall. He has seen these common values. And that's why security is at a record high in terms of our support. And that's why he has worked so closely with other nations in the world to build the tightest coalition to try to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power. And he's been very effective. And he's had diplomacy, economic sanctions and the credible threat of a military strike.
CROWLEY: Let me -- you know that there has been a lot of criticism of the president from his natural critics, from Republicans, but also sometimes from American Jewish voters. They question his relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu, which I think we can at least say has been rocky or cool.
They question the fact that he has not been to Israel during his first term and whether he has that same sort of affinity with Israel that other presidents seem to have had. I want to play you something that John McCain told me last week on "State of the Union." We were talking about the president saying to a crowd, "Our relationship with Israel has never been closer." And here was John McCain's reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Everybody knows that relations with Israel have never been worse, beginning with the demands for a free settlement back at the beginning of the Obama administration. The president sends his national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Israel to tell them not to attack Iran, thereby weakening Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Any reaction?
ROEMER: Well, listen, I like John McCain a whole lot. He's somebody that I worked with to create the 9/11 commission, but he couldn't be further wrong on this one -- my good friend from the state of Arizona.
The president is firmly committed to the security of Israel and the security of the United States. He shares the values of democracy, of common interests between the two allies.
CROWLEY: Why this feeling then? Why this feeling...
ROEMER: I think this is more politics, Candy. Sadly, you know, look, we all hope that Governor Romney, not so much as the Republican nominee but as an American, has a successful trip overseas and reflects well on the United States.
CROWLEY: Did he, do you think, in the speech?
ROEMER: Look, I thought the backdrop for the speech was powerful, the view of Jerusalem, the holy city in the background...
CROWLEY: The words?
ROEMER: I thought that he talked about effectively, you know, some of the shared values and shared interests.
I think, you know, the threshold for Governor Romney, quite frankly, Candy, is this. Is he equipped? Is he prepared to be a commander in chief?
And when he gets off on the first leg of this trip and he goes to Great Britain and he insults the British people, and David Cameron, the prime minister, and the mayor of London both rebuke him, the question becomes this, is, if he can't engage our allies on a simple topic like the international Olympics, how is he going to be tough enough to stand up to our gravest enemies like Iran?
Who is Iran going to take more seriously with the threat of a military option, Barack Obama, who has used our troops effectively in Iran and -- or in Iraq and Afghanistan, brought our troops home, treated them fairly, gotten them jobs as they come home; or Mitt Romney, who goes to Great Britain and fumbles around on pretty easy issues?
CROWLEY: Well, it was a blip. I'm not sure, in November, if folks believe that this is going to actually affect him one way or another. But let me try to get you back to today and something that the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who, again, has had a sort of a chilly relationship with President Obama -- the subject was Mitt Romney saying, listen, you know, we have to be ready to stand by Israel if it feels the need that it is threatened and needs to go and do something about Iran's development of nuclear weaponry.
And here's something that the prime minister had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: We have to be honest and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far has not set back the Iranian program by one iota. And that's why I believe that we need a strong and credible military threat coupled with the sanctions to have a chance to change that situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Now, the criticism of the president has been, one, when the people of Iran were on the streets of Iran, that the president was not forceful in his support of them as he was in some other nations -- Egypt comes to mind -- when uprisings began there; and that, number two, all of these sanctions that he's recently tightened have not done, as Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, just said, one iota of good.
ROEMER: Well, first of all, let's clear up a misperception here. I think the president has sat down with the prime minister of Israel, Mr. Netanyahu, more than with any other leader, had negotiations, discussions. I think this...
CROWLEY: Frank and open, as they say.
ROEMER: Frank and open, honest. When you're talking about these kinds of issues, you want two people that respect each other and hold their ground but also work together and look for principled compromise. I think these two respect each other.
Secondly, to the prime minister's talk about we need a credible military threat coupled with sanctions, that's exactly the president's policy...
CROWLEY: What about...
CROWLEY: ... not one iota?
ROEMER: ... is that he's had very tough -- very tough sanctions that have brought the world community together. As ambassador, when I worked for the United States in India, we worked around the globe to try to get other countries to get on board, China, Russia, India and others, and we've seen this come together in unprecedented ways.
It is tightening the noose, with the president saying there is a viable security military option on the table.
Secretary Clinton has been to Israel lately. Secretary Panetta is going there. Tom Donilon was just there to talk about all options.
So, Candy, again, this comes down to who do you see as the commander in chief that is best equipped to use that option if it had to be used? And I think, given this trip, we'll see how Governor Romney does for the rest of it.
CROWLEY: Former ambassador and former congressman Tim Roemer, it's good to see you.
ROEMER: Candy, great to see you. Thanks.
CROWLEY: With 100 days until the election, the news about the economy is not good. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin is next.
CROWLEY: A slew of disappointing reports signals a nation still in economic distress and an incumbent president still in political peril. Consumer confidence which measures optimism about the economy fell to the lowest level this year, and personal spending cooled as shoppers cut back on items big and small from cars to groceries. And the broadest measure of economic health, the gross domestic product, grew at an anemic 1.5% in the second quarter.
We are just 100 days before the election. Joining me now from Chicago, senate majority whip Dick Durbin.
CROWLEY: Thank you so much, senator, for joining us this morning. I want to put up some GDP figures, that gross domestic product, over the last couple of years for our audience. just so they see that it has been -- it has been up, but it has not been to the point where it can bring down unemployment. That's a 3 percent growth rate. We've got about a 1.5 in the last quarter.
No president in modern history has been re-elected with these kind of numbers. What is your level of concern?
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D) ILLINOIS: Well, I say this, we've had more than 26 straight months of private sector job creation. And the jobs -- many that we've lost in the public sector the president has appealed to congress to help him to make sure that there are firefighters and policeman and teachers and we have no cooperation from the Republicans. They are determined.
CROWLEY: But doesn't the buck stop with the president?
DURBIN: To keep the employment numbers low.
CROWLEY: I understand, but you know how this works...
DURBIN: Well, of course it does. He's the president.
The president accepts responsibility, but he also believes that we are on the right track. returning to the economic policies of the bush administration, which Mitt Romney endorses, would just plunge us back again into a recession situation where we are giving tax breaks to the wealthiest in America, seeing a deficit out of control and not creating strength in the middle-class, the working families of America, that is really our future and that's where we ought to pin our economic policies.
CROWLEY: So you are not concerned about the president's re- election prospects?
DURBIN: Oh, no. Let me tell you, this is going to be a very close election. We take it very seriously. And it's going to have its ups and downs in the next 100 days that are left.
But the bottom line is the American people know we are moving in the right direction. They want to keep us moving forward. And that, I think, is the key to it.
Look at just what happened this week, the president's tax cuts in the United States Senate passed with a 51-48 vote to make sure that families making less than $250,000 a year have no increase in taxes at the end of the year and every single Republican senator voted against it. They said if you won't give tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent in America, then the middle income families won't receive any tax cuts at all.
That is a policy which Mitt Romney may think is wise, but from our point of view is not sensible when we know so many working families are struggling paycheck to paycheck.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about this fiscal cliff of which part of it is what to do about these Bush era tax cuts. Everyone in Washington right now is talking as though they had nothing to do with the deal the so-called sequestration by which there is across the boards huge cuts in the defense -- $500 billion in defense, a $500 billion in non-discretionary domestic budget. Everybody acts as though this was not their doing, and yet the fact of the matter is that this deal passed 74-26 to put the sequestration in place, 46 of those were Democrats, including yourself. So there is responsibility here, is there not, to fix this since you all voted for it?
DURBIN: Absolutely. And let me tell you, there is a case of Republican amnesia on the floor of the senate. We have the Republican senate leaders coming to the floor blasting sequestration that they voted for. They said that the super committee failed... CROWLEY: But you did as well, right?
DURBIN: Of course I did, because here was the alternative, the Tea Party of the House of Representatives and their followers in the senate said we're prepared to shutdown the economy of America, default on our debt for the first time. Instead we came up with a bipartisan approach that was brokered with Republican leaders and the president that said we will put together a super committee, give them the responsibility to cut the deficit by over $10 trillion in ten years. And if they fail, then automatic spending cuts.
We voted for it to avoid an economic shutdown. Now we face it.
But here is the good news. With the president's leadership, we can come together. There is a bipartisan answer here that will reduce the deficit and still create an environment for economic growth.
CROWLEY: We thank Senator Durbin for joining us.
And when we come back, one of Mitt Romney's potential running mates, Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte.
CROWLEY: Joining me is Romney supporter and New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte.
Thank you so much for being here this morning.
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: Thanks, Candy. Appreciate it.
CROWLEY: I want to review the bidding for our viewers that have maybe been locked into the Olympics and haven't been watching politics. In London, Mitt Romney held a fundraiser with executives with a bank that's under investigation for rate fixing. The -- he talked about the disconcerting news about London's security around the Olympics and caused a mini-tempest over there. He talked publicly about his meeting with the secret intelligence -- with the head of MI6, and his adviser, which Mitt Romney has repudiated, talked about how the former governor understands the Anglo-Saxon heritage that President Obama does not.
This is not how you thought this foreign policy trip would go so for?
AYOTTE: Well, I can tell you that certainly Mitt Romney is going to be strong on American exceptionalism and strong foreign policy for America, and he won't go around and apologize for America.
Think about it, the president's first major foreign policy speech in Cairo was to apologize for our country. And he's actually made us weaker around the world, as opposed to stronger. And Mitt Romney will stand strong with our allies. CROWLEY: But let me just take you back to the question, which is -- this wasn't -- this did not help, this London leg of the trip?
AYOTTE: Well, you know, Candy, we all know stuff happens on the campaign trail. Governor Romney subsequently said very clearly that he was confident in London's readiness. But what is really missing here is the real story about the Olympics. When Salt Lake City was in trouble, Mitt Romney stepped in, served his community. And let's face it, he had to go in there and clean up somebody else's mess. It was not a sure thing. There were financial scandals. He went in, he served his country. Salt Lake City was a success. America was proud. And now we need someone to clean up Barack Obama's mess, and Mitt Romney is the person to do it.
CROWLEY: I know that is the message you want to get out.
Let me move on to something you just said, talking about that President Obama, you believe, has conducted a weak foreign policy. We are talking about a man who upped the drone war to get at al Qaeda operatives both in Pakistan and Yemen well beyond what George Bush ever did. This is the man who gave the OK to go get bin Laden, now of course deceased. He wound down the war in Iraq. He is winding down the war in Afghanistan, and more importantly for Americans, I think, there have been no attacks on U.S. soil since President Obama took office. What is weak about that?
AYOTTE: Well, I certainly give him credit for getting Osama bin Laden and the drone attacks. But Candy, let's be clear where we are. Let's look at the situation right now in Syria where essentially he has outsourced leadership to the United Nations. And is it a surprise that China and Russia don't want to support freedom in Syria? I mean, look at his reset policy. Here we have Russia basically thumbing their nose at the United States of America, continuing to provide arms to the Assad regime, and in addition to that, this week there was a report at the end of the week that the Russian naval chief, that Russia was actually looking at opening additional bases, including one in Cuba.
We are not stronger. The relationship with Israel -- when the people of Teheran stood in the streets of 2009 and asked for freedom, the president did not speak up for them. And I can tell you when Mitt Romney is president...
CROWLEY: They imposed sanctions.
AYOTTE: ...he will speak up for freedom.
CROWLEY: They certainly imposed sanctions--
AYOTTE: He was dragged to the table, to the economic sanctions. I mean, you can, the congressional leaders of both sides of the aisle are the ones that pushed stronger economic sanctions. It took years into his presidency to get those tougher economic sanctions in place.
CROWLEY: Kelly Ayotte, thank you so much for joining us, Senator.
AYOTTE: Thanks, Candy, appreciate it.
CROWLEY: A check of the top stories is next.
CROWLEY: Time for a check of the headlines.
Syria's opposition leaders are warning a massacre may occur in Aleppo, the country's largest city. The military is using tanks and helicopters there to pound rebels. Meanwhile, Syria's foreign minister met with his Iranian counterpart today with both criticizing what they called an international plot against the Syrian regime.
Some advice from the U.S.'s top diplomat in Afghanistan, American policymakers should head the lessons of the recent past while weighing military options for the future in Syria and Iran. Ambassador Ryan Crocker who is retiring this month tells the New York Times "U.S. leaders should remember the law of unintended consequences and recognize the limits of America's capabilities."
Authorities have located a 12-year-old girl who had been missing since the bodies of the couple she lived with were found. Amber Whitlow was found last night in Memphis, Tennessee with her older brother Antonio Whitlow who is a suspect in her abduction as well as the couple's death. Antonio Whitlow is in police custody. Amber was taken to a children's hospital as a precaution.
And Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio was supposed to appear at a campaign rally for Mitt Romney in Iowa, but Rubio couldn't make the appearance, because the plane he was on made an emergency landing in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Rubio who has been mentioned as a potential Romney running mate did address the Iowa rally by phone. An Albuquerque airport spokesman says Rubio's plane may have had an electrical issue.
And those are your top stories. Now back to Fareed Zakaria GPS.