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The most controversial line in Romney's convention speech?

Mitt Romney only devoted a little more than 200 words to foreign policy in his convention speech on Thursday evening, and most of the section consisted of familiar refrains from the campaign trail. He promised North American energy independence by 2020, while accusing President Obama of throwing Israel "under the bus," embarking on an "apology tour" around the world after his election, and failing to demonstrate strength in his dealings with Iran and Russia.

"Under my administration," he declared, "our friends will see more loyalty, and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone."

Notably, Romney acknowledged Obama's role in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and didn't mention the ongoing war in Afghanistan once -- both topics that have hardly been discussed during the convention. 

But the most controversial foreign-policy line in Romney's speech may very well have been when he briefly alluded to climate change. "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans," he noted, pausing skeptically as the crowd jeered. "And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family." The remark elicited an extended standing ovation. 

Critics swiftly derided the comment. "That climate change laugh line is going to be in every documentary from the latter half of the 21st century," Matt Novak wrote on Twitter. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted that Romney's "dismissiveness was appalling."

It's not entirely clear, however, whether Romney was mocking global warming, Obama's lofty rhetoric and misguided priorities, or both. Earlier in the speech, Romney had argued that "Hope and Change had a powerful" -- but ultimately empty -- appeal. "You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him," he observed.

Romney has shifted his position on global warming. In June 2011, he told a town hall that he believed "the world is getting warmer," that "humans contribute to that," and that it was important to "reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases." Several months later at a campaign stop, he argued that "we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet" and the "idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us."

The Republican platform opposes Environmental Protection Agency climate change regulations and criticizes the number of times the word "climate" appears in the Obama administration's National Security Strategy.

Beyond the debate over climate change, however, Romney's line speaks to a larger point -- one that should be evident to anyone who's watched the convention these last few days: As the campaign progresses, Romney will do his best to continuously steer the conversation back to his strengths: jobs and the economy.

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Russian press rips Romney and his promise of ‘Republican hell’

Republicans may be rallying around Mitt Romney at the GOP convention in Tampa, but over in Russia the GOP presidential candidate is getting a far chillier reception.

Romney has been tough on Moscow during the campaign, calling the New START nuclear arms reduction deal Obama's "worst foreign-policy mistake," labeling Russia America's "number one geopolitical foe," and characterizing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a man bent on rebuilding the "Soviet empire." His advisors have echoed these sentiments, as has the Republican platform, which cites "Russian activism" as one of the "gravest threats to our national security" and alludes to a "hot mic" moment between Obama and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as evidence that the president wants to "appease Russia" on missile defense. It's remarkably aggressive rhetoric -- albeit from a party whose most revered figure famously referred to Russia as an "evil empire."

The Russian press was already up in arms about Romney's trip to Poland earlier this month (money quote from the state-funded RT: "the Mormon from Michigan has been time-warped back to the Soviet era, behind an Iron Curtain and inside of a 1950s black-and-white television set"). But the outrage has resurfaced in recent days, as the GOP released its platform and opened its convention. 

In an article entitled "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan promise Russia Republican hell," for example, Pravda, which has been known to engage in colorful outbursts against Romney, declares that the GOP ticket supports the "radicalization of the country's foreign policies" -- particularly those concerning Russia. "According to the Republican Party," the newspaper scoffs, the "Russian administration is authoritarian and does not respect human rights.... They refer to Russia as a traditional rival of the United States along with North Korea, Iran and China.... To crown it all, Mitt Romney expressed his willingness to be the godfather of the Russian opposition and organize the training for opposition activists at American educational centers."

Pravda isn't alone. At the state-owned news agency RIA-Novosti, journalist Fyodor Lukyanov observes that "no matter how much you may dislike Russia and its authorities, the time when it was America's enemy number one is long past." In a blistering column for the state-run radio station Voice of Russia, presenter John Robles warns that Romney and his "cold war thinking" will signal the death knell of Obama's "reset" with Russia, and he doesn't stop there:

To say that Romney and his Republican brethren are a danger to world peace would be an understatement. Their "ultra-conservative" views and stances on a number of issues will bring about another era of neo-conservative subjugation for the American people and the world and their backward thinking and confrontational posturing will destroy much of the delicate compromise that has kept the world stable for the last four years....

To listen to Romney and his Republican like and read how they plan to "curb Moscow", "confront Russia", surround Russia with missiles and the like is to get the impression that he is talking about some small third world nation they can just obliterate at any moment and not the largest country on the planet and a formidable nuclear power.

Another Voice of Russia article -- entitled "Republicans choose presidential candidate and external enemies" -- includes an interview with an expert identified as Valey Korovin, the director of the Center for Political Expertise. "It is a fact that Russia and the US are geopolitical opponents," Korovin is quoted as saying. "This logic is based on the confrontation of two kinds of civilizations, and the Republicans openly speak about it. The Democrats think the same but use more roundabout expressions and adhere to the use of soft, smart force. As for Romney, he is only a presidential candidate, so he does not care about beating around the bush and bluntly calls a spade a spade."

The intense focus on Romney's posture toward Russia isn't limited to government-controlled news outlets, either. In a report today on the GOP convention, for instance, the privately owned daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta leads with, "Russia is once again among America's enemies." The business daily Vedomosti highlights a recent Citi report suggesting that a Romney victory in November could batter the Russian stock market and explores what a GOP win would signify more generally for the "reset" and U.S.-Russian relations.

Of course, we don't know whether a President Romney would actually follow through on his Russia rhetoric. As Peter Baker points out in the New York Times today, "the pragmatic dealmaker in Mr. Romney may find that even if he does not want to sign a nuclear arms treaty with Moscow as Mr. Obama did, it is useful to be able to move supplies through Russian territory to Afghanistan."

For now, at least, Romney may want to soak up the moment in Tampa -- and avoid picking up any Russian newspapers.

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