Mitt Romney said on Sunday that "I respect the right of Israel to defend itself," and that all U.S. diplomatic, economic and military options should be employed to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, as he and his campaign sought to clarify an adviser's remark that was interpreted as giving Israel a green light to attack Iran.
In an interview with CBS News, Romney declined to endorse remarks made by Dan Senor, his special adviser on foreign policy, who told reporters on the trip that, "If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing the capability, the governor would respect that decision." Senor later issued a statement to clarify that remark, saying that it is Romney's "fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures" will be sufficient.
When asked about Senor's remark, Romney told CBS, "I'll use my own words." He stuck with his longstanding stance that Iran's nuclear weapons program is a dangerous threat, and that the United States should not take a military option "off the table" when trying to regulate Iranian behavior.
Democrats pounced on the confusion, which Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said was "emblematic and revealing" of Romney's lack of experience, preparation and diplomatic skill. He was "suggesting from his campaign staff that we would go to war" and "now appearing to roll that back," Wasserman Shultz said.
"If Mitt Romney believes it is time to go to war, then he should say it,” she said, adding that Romney has "repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to be all over the map."
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