Mitt Romney: Use U.S. aid for Mideast peace
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Barack Obama's top spokesman each have said the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Obama himself has not used that language, though in his speech at the UN General Assembly, he called the violence in Libya "attacks on America."
Romney, speaking in Manhattan at an annual global development conference sponsored by former President Bill Clinton, said he would negotiate trade agreements and offer "prosperity pacts" in the Middle East and other developing nations to encourage open markets in exchange for U.S. aid.
"The aim of a much larger share of our aid must be the promotion of work and the fostering of free enterprise," Romney said at the Clinton Global Initiative event.
The Republican presidential candidate called the United States the most charitable nation in the world, but said sometimes aid money has not been used effectively.
In 2011, the U.S. government provided about $30 billion in development assistance, more than twice as much as the second most generous country, Germany. But the United States was 19th on the donor list if aid dollars are considered as a percentage of gross national income.
"We see stories of cases where American aid has been diverted to corrupt governments," he said. "We wonder why years of aid and relief seem never to extinguish the hardship, why the suffering persists decade after decade."
Romney said that while religious extremism is a cause of hostility in the Middle East, so are the large populations of young people without job prospects.
"Idle, humiliated by poverty, and crushed by government corruption, their frustration and anger grows," he said, citing the fruit vendor in Tunisia whose self-immolation sparked the Arab Spring revolutions last year.
Romney said he would not prevent teachers from being able to strike, but would like to see parents exert more influence over their children's education than teachers unions. He repeatedly praised Education Secretary Arne Duncan, citing his focus on school choice and teacher competency, but declined to say whether he'd keep him in his cabinet.