In truce, Obama, Romney debate role of military
WASHINGTON (AP) — Looking to win voters even as they swore off negative attacks, President Barack Obama touted his administration’s military accomplishments on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks while rival Mitt Romney warned against budget cuts that he said would be devastating to the armed forces.
Obama pointed to gains in the war on terror during his time as commander in chief to make the case that Americans are better protected. ‘‘Al-Qaida’s leadership has been devastated and Osama bin Laden will never threaten us again. Our country is safer and our people are resilient,’’ the president said at a Pentagon memorial service.
Romney, in a speech to a National Guard convention in Reno, Nev., argued that the United States now had a ‘‘duty to steer it onto the path of freedom, peace and prosperity. America must lead the free world and the free world must lead the entire world.’’
While Romney won applause for thanking the Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden — he didn’t mention Obama — he added: ‘‘I wish I could say the world is less dangerous now.’’
Obama and Romney pulled their negative ads and avoided appearing at campaign rallies, but the politicking didn’t stop.
An interview with Obama aired Tuesday morning on Miami’s ‘‘The DJ Laz Morning Show’’ focused heavily on the re-election bid, with some pop culture references thrown in to appeal to voters who are not typically politically engaged. White House aides said the interview was taped over the weekend while Obama was in Florida.
‘‘We've got a lot of work to do and I can only do it if I've got people out there who are getting registered and making sure they vote,’’ Obama said in the interview that did not mention the anniversary of the attacks.
The president’s campaign also dispatched former President Bill Clinton to rally voters in Miami and first lady Michelle Obama encouraged supporters by email to commit to voting for her husband and recruiting others to do the same.
The day offered Romney a chance before the National Guard to address criticism that he didn’t include a salute to the troops or reference the war in Afghanistan in his GOP convention speech last week.
‘‘With less than two months to go before Election Day, I would normally speak to a gathering like this about the differences between my and my opponent’s plans for our military and for our national security,’’ Romney told thousands packed convention hall. ‘‘There is a time and a place for that, but this day is not it.’’
But Romney still delivered a political speech — criticizing defense cuts scheduled to take place early next year and suggesting an end to the war in Afghanistan lacks a clear mission, even though his strategy is similar to Obama's.
Obama’s goal is to end all U.S. combat there by the end of 2014, while Romney says he wants to hand over security responsibility to the Afghans at a pace that does not risk the country’s collapse and al-Qaida’s return, without specifics about troop numbers.
‘‘We can all agree that our men and women in the field deserve a clear mission, that they deserve the resources and resolute leadership they need to complete that mission, and that they deserve a country that will provide for their needs when they come home,’’ Romney said.
The president and first lady observed the anniversary with moments of silence on the White House South Lawn and at the Pentagon, the target of one of the four planes hijacked by al-Qaida operatives. Afterward, Obama shook hands with the Pentagon crowd, including a man in a Romney hat who got his autograph.
The president then went to Arlington National Cemetery, where he visited the graves of recent war dead from Afghanistan and Iraq and placed presidential challenge coins in front of their headstones. He later planned to visit wounded soldiers and their families at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
At the time of the somber White House observance, Romney was shaking hands with firefighters at Chicago’s O'Hare Airport, their yellow trucks forming a backdrop that recalled the sacrifice of first responders to the attacks. The Republican nominee then flew to Nevada to address the National Guard, whose members deployed as part of the military response.
Vice President Joe Biden attended a memorial service in his home state of Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked airliners crashed in the fields of Shanksville. He told the families of the victims that ‘‘what they did for this country is still etched in the minds of not only you but millions of Americans forever.’’Continued...