Romney to emphasize ties to Poland on final day of foreign trip

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

WARSAW, Poland—Mitt Romney will wrap up his weeklong overseas tour with a foreign policy speech emphasizing the United States' ties to Poland as well as the central European country's robust economy.

The Republican presidential candidate will highlight Poland's push for democracy, calling it an "example and defender of freedom" in a "turbulent world," according to excerpts of Romney's speech provided by his campaign.

"For an American, you can't get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country," Romney will say. "Our nations belong to the great fellowship of democracies. We speak the same language of freedom and justice. We uphold the right of every person to live in peace."

Citing his desire not to criticize President Barack Obama on foreign soil, Romney has trod carefully about mentioning his Democratic opponent over the last few days. But the Republican candidate will indirectly reference tensions between Poland and the Obama administration.

In 2009, the Obama administration dropped plans backed by the Bush administration to construct an air missile defense system in Poland and in the Czech Republic in a decision that was widely considered a concession to Russia. The move irked top Polish leaders—a sore spot Romney referenced in his speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention last week when he suggested Obama had abandoned key allies

He'll hint at that criticism today, telling his audience in Poland, "I believe it is critical to stand by those who have stood by America."

Romney aides are hoping to end his trip on a high note, after most of his trip has been overshadowed by controversy. In London, Romney irritated top British officials when he told NBC News he found the city's preparations ahead of the Olympic games "disconcerting." On Monday, he infuriated Palestinian leaders when he suggested Israel had been more economically successful because of its "culture."

A Romney spokeswoman insisted the candidate's remarks had been "grossly mischaracterized" but did not specify how the coverage of his remarks was incorrect.

Amid criticism of his remarks, the Republican candidate has largely avoided his traveling press corps over the last several days. With the exception of a round of network television interviews, Romney hasn't taken questions from reporters since Thursday, when he appeared before the press outside No. 10 Downing Street in what was perceived as an effort to dial back his comments about the Olympics.

That has prompted tension between the campaign and his press corps. Ahead of his speech in Poland, Romney toured a local landmark, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and was passing through a public plaza when several aides tried to block the press, saying the last bit of his tour was "closed press."

As Romney began moving toward his motorcade, several reporters shouted questions at the candidate, including whether he wanted to respond to Palestinian criticism of his remarks in Israel. Rick Gorka, Romney's traveling press secretary, became visibly irritated, telling reporters that the plaza where Romney was walking was considered a Polish "holy site" and to "show some respect."

When reporters continued to shout questions at Romney, Gorka became angry. When The New York Times' Ashley Parker complained the press hadn't had a chance to question Romney, the press aide replied, "Kiss my ass." And he told Politico's Jonathan Martin, who also complained about the candidate's lack of access, to "shove it." Gorka later apologized to both Martin and Parker, calling his actions "inappropriate."

But aides still said Romney is unlikely to take questions from reporters on his final day in Poland.