* Attacks Obama on foreign policy after Libya assault
* Makes case for stronger U.S. military
* Election could hinge on Northern Virginia
By Steve Holland
FAIRFAX, Va., Sept 13 Republican presidential
candidate Mitt Romney criticized President Barack Obama's
handling of foreign policy on Thursday after four Americans were
killed in Libya, saying the United States seems at the mercy of
Romney made a case for a stronger U.S. military at a
campaign rally in Northern Virginia, an area that could play a
deciding role in who wins the Nov. 6 presidential election.
The former Massachusetts governor stopped short of repeating
charges that Obama was apologizing to America's enemies, but
made clear he had not changed his mind about it after getting
heat for his views from Democrats and some fellow Republicans.
"As we watch the world today, sometimes it seems that we're
at the mercy of events, instead of shaping events," he said in
Fairfax, a suburb of Washington.
Romney came under fire after criticizing the Obama
administration's initial response to demonstrators at U.S.
diplomatic missions in Benghazi, Libya, and Cairo.
Romney on Wednesday denounced the U.S. Embassy in Cairo for
criticizing an anti-Islam film that enraged protesters who
scaled the embassy's walls. The U.S. ambassador to Libya and
three other Americans were killed when assailants attacked the
consulate in Benghazi during a protest against the film.
Critics say Romney was too quick to inject election-year
politics into a U.S. foreign policy crisis and that he got the
timeline of the embassy incident wrong.
At the Fairfax event, Romney did not repeat his line of
attack but he has shown no sign of backing away.
In an ABC interview later, Romney argued the White House
agreed with him that the embassy statement was inappropriate
because officials had distanced themselves from it.
"What I said was exactly the same conclusion the White House
reached, which was that the statement was inappropriate. That's
why they backed away from it as well," he said.
With the Middle East remaining a source of tensions, the
Romney campaign said Romney and his vice presidential running
mate, Paul Ryan, would begin receiving U.S. intelligence
briefings next week.
"For the last several weeks, the Romney campaign has been in
touch with the intelligence community to arrange intelligence
briefings for Governor Romney and Representative Ryan,
consistent with tradition. They will begin next week and, beyond
that, we will have no further comment," said Romney spokeswoman
As he paid homage in Fairfax to the four Americans slain in
Libya, a heckler interrupted Romney.
"Why are you politicizing Libya?" the man shouted, according
to audio recorded by a television pool camera.
Romney said he had wanted to pause the campaign event for a
moment of silence for the victims, but "one gentleman doesn't
want to be silent, so we're going to keep on going."
The crowd of Romney supporters shouted down the heckler with
chants of "USA" and he was escorted out. The Republican paid
tribute to the four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher
Stevens, saying, "What a tragedy to lose such wonderful people."
URGES STRONG MILITARY
Romney accused Obama of instigating some big cuts in the
defense budget that will come into effect at year's end unless
the president can negotiate a budget deal with Congress.
The threatened cuts are part of an agreement between Obama
and top congressional Republicans in August 2011 to help avert
an unprecedented U.S. government debt default. Among the backers
of the deal was Romney's running mate, Ryan.
"A strong America is essential to shape events. And a strong
America, by the way, depends on a strong military. We have to
have a military second to none and that's so strong no one would
ever think of testing it," he said.
Romney likely needs to win Virginia in order to defeat Obama
and much depends on how Northern Virginia votes. Many residents
of the area are dependent on government jobs in Washington.