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Question on Romney catches Obama flat-footed

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President Obama held a press conference on Tuesday while attending a meeting in The Netherlands to discuss Russian sanctions with our NATO allies.

Strangely, the focus of the press conference became his Republican opponent in the 2012 presidential election – Mitt Romney.

Jonathan Karl of ABC News asked the president if he thought "Mitt Romney had a point" when he said in 2012 that Russia was America's "number one" geopolitical foe.

The question clearly stiffened Obama’s body language.

But Karl’s question in its totality said, "In China, Syria, and Egypt and now in Russia, we have seen you make strong statements and issue warnings that have been ignored. Are you concerned that America's influence in the world, your influence in the world, is on the decline? In light of recent developments, have you rethought your critiques of Romney?”

Karl was referring to the 2012 campaign when Romney said Russia was our "number one geopolitical foe." He had been quickly criticized for the statement. Now it seems the invasion of the Crimea gives his statement additional credibility.

Obama replied weakly, "We may not act militarily, but that does not mean that we don't steadily push against those forces that would violate those principles and ideals we care about."

The president didn’t address the question. The Washington Post dug up his response to Romney that he made months ago:

“The truth of the matter is that America has got a whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength, but out of weakness.
We have considerable influence on neighbors. We generally don't need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them. The fact that Russia felt the need to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more. My response (to Romney) then continues to be what I believe today, which is: Russia's actions are a problem. They don't pose the number one national security threat to the United States.”

That could have been the president’s response if he had his trusted teleprompter. Instead, Obama said, what concerns him the most is "the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan."

There is a reason the president’s handlers do not like unrehearsed press conferences with no script to follow.

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