* Proposes using foreign aid to boost free enterprise
* Trying to get his campaign back on track
By Steve Holland
NEW YORK, Sept 25 Introduced by Bill Clinton and
facing a room filled with Democrats, Republican presidential
nominee Mitt Romney pulled his punches on Tuesday and outlined
an approach to foreign aid that would boost the role of free
enterprise in developing nations.
Romney addressed the former president's Clinton Global
Initiative and from the outset made light of his situation.
Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention last
month gave a boost to President Barack Obama, who now leads
Romney in a number of swing states that will be vital in the
Nov. 6 election.
After Clinton gave a polite introduction of Romney, thanking
him for his support for the Americorps foreign aid program begun
during the Clinton presidency, Romney quipped:
"If there's one thing we've learned this election season,
it's that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of
good. After that introduction, I guess all I have to do is wait
a day or two for the bounce," he said.
Laughter rang through the audience, which included a number
of high-profile Democrats like former Clinton Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright, former Clinton White House Chief of Staff
John Podesta, former Ohio Senator John Glenn, retired General
Wesley Clark and entertainer Will.i.Am, among others.
The Clinton Global Initiative is a bipartisan aid effort and
Romney held back from his usual campaign barbs against Obama.
But with the world's attention on the annual United Nations
General Assembly where Obama spoke in another part of Manhattan,
Romney cited a number of foreign policy challenges that implied
criticism of Obama's handling of them.
"Syria has witnessed the killing of tens of thousands of
people. The president of Egypt is a member of the Muslim
Brotherhood. Our ambassador to Libya was assassinated in a
terrorist attack. And Iran is moving toward nuclear weapons
capability. We feel that we are at the mercy of events, rather
than shaping events," he said.
Romney had drawn criticism from Democrats and some
Republicans two weeks ago by injecting politics into the tragic
events surrounding the killing of U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris
Stevens and three other diplomatic personnel in Libya.
That was only one of several stumbles to afflict the former
Massachusetts governor since his own Republican convention, and
he is now attempting to return his campaign to solid ground with
six weeks left of campaigning.
After his visit to New York, he will go on a two-day bus
tour of Ohio, widely considered to be a state he must win. A
Washington Post poll had Obama up eight points in Ohio, 52
percent to 44 percent.
He will be joined at a rally in Dayton by his vice
presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, to try to recreate the
energy for his campaign that the pair generated when he picked
the conservative Wisconsin congressman to join the ticket last
Romney's central theme in New York was to propose that the
United States put a greater focus on using U.S. foreign
assistance to encourage free enterprise as a way of creating
jobs in the developing world.
Romney argued that much of U.S. development aid has had
limited success at lifting people out of poverty and that U.S.
foreign aid programs frequently have tried to supplant private
"A temporary aid package can jolt an economy. It can fund
some projects. It can pay some bills. It can employ some people
some of the time. But it can't sustain an economy - not for
long," he said.
Romney, a former private equity executive, proposed a
"prosperity pact" program that would use financial assistance to
support development of free enterprise.
The United States has backed "micro-credit programs" for
years to fund small loans to help entrepreneurs in developing
nations create businesses. Bill Clinton was a prime advocate for
Romney would take that a step further to provide assistance
to help medium-sized businesses develop and connect them to the
"A year from now, I hope to return to this meeting as
president, having made substantial progress toward achieving the
reforms I've outlined," Romney said.