Romney blasts Obama for 'weakening' America
Washington » Addressing a convention of conservatives, he said the president is bringing back 30 years of failed liberal programs.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Rallying a mass gathering of conservatives on Saturday, former presidential contender Mitt Romney offered a blistering critique of President Barack Obama, saying he is weakening America and steering the nation toward bankruptcy.

"We know that America has always endured a chorus of critics, people who claim that every ill, every failure in the world is America's fault," Romney said. "But it has never before had a president who was conducting that chorus."

Romney, who may vie again for the White House in 2012, grabbed a hero's welcome at the Values Voter Summit, an annual convention of conservatives from across the nation. And the former Massachusetts governor delivered a litany of anti-liberal, anti-Obama, anti-big government applause lines.

"The president sold [the stimulus act] as an immediate boost that would hold unemployment below 8 percent, restore the economy and create jobs," Romney said. "Rather than bring back the economy, it brought back 30 years of failed liberal programs."

Since the stimulus passed in February, millions more people have lost their jobs and unemployment is now teetering at 10 percent, Romney said.

"Not one new job has been created," he declared.

Many economists, however, say that the $800 billion stimulus package did keep the economy from dipping further into a recession.

The Democratic National Committee noted Romney was misrepresenting facts as he attempted to throw mud at the president.

"If Mitt Romney thinks pandering to the far right is a winning strategy, that's his choice," said DNC national press secretary Hari Sevugan. "Of course it didn't work out so well for him last time. Maybe that's because, given how often he changes his position on issues, he has no credibility with the right. And given how often he's misrepresenting the truth, he doesn't have much credibility with anyone else either."

Romney was one of dozens of conservative leaders addressing the crowd at the swank Omni Shoreham hotel a few miles north of the White House. Two notable figures, though, were no-shows: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Romney, however, made clear that he was in the house. At one point, Romney noted that Obama promised during the campaign not to raise taxes on someone making less than $250,000, prompting a audience member -- a la Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. -- to yell, "He lies."

"I approve that comment," Romney shot back.

Romney, who bowed out of the presidential race last February after a series of losses, has attempted to keep up appearances since the campaign, speaking at events like the conservative confab in Washington and on news shows.

And he's continued to raise money and employ a staff through a political action committee as he weighs another bid. On Saturday, he sure sounded like he was challenging Obama.

"When government is trying to take over health care, buy car companies, bail out banks, and giving half the White House staff the title of czar, we have every good reason to be alarmed and to speak our mind," Romney told the crowd.

The former head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City entered and left to the theme music from the Olympic Games.

Romney said he supported a revamp of the health-care system but charged Democrats were trying to create universal health care and grow government.

The former governor didn't mention, however, how the plan he signed into law as governor in Massachusetts requires individuals to buy health insurance, a major sticking point with conservative voters.

tburr@sltrib.com