Former Romney spokesperson Richard Grenell called out the media on Monday for not focusing hard enough on President Obama's foreign policy record. "The media needs to start looking at policies, not just lip service from this President," he told CNN's Carol Costello.
"You know, there has been criticism that Romney spoke out too early in the Middle East after 15 hours of a developing violence. How come we're not asking where was the President, why didn't he speak out before 15 hours?" Grenell asked of the media. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
CNN's Carol Costello grilled Romney's former national security spokesman over the differences between Romney's foreign policy with Iran and that of President Obama's. Costello maintained that Obama has enforced sanctions, but Grenell shot down their significance.
"So I just don't see that it is credible to say that the Obama administration is trying to ratchet up the sanctions," he argued. "When after two-and-a-half years they've done nothing but decide to do last minute oil sanctions with waivers starting July 1st. The media needs to start looking at policies, not just lip service from this President."
Grenell fired at the media right away when Costello first asked him what the "red line" was in U.S. dealings with Iran. "Well, that red line was established in 2006. I find it shocking that anybody in the media is questioning where that red line was," he answered.
A transcript of the interview, which aired on CNN Newsroom on September 17 at 10:18 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
CAROL COSTELLO: Lots the talk this morning about that red line on Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit the Sunday talk shows to ramp up pressure on the Obama administration to set a clear line on Iran's nuclear development. The President says there already is a red line, but he is being criticized by the Romney-Ryan ticket for, quote, "leading from behind." Joining me now is Rick Grenell, former Romney foreign policy advisor and former U.S. spokesperson to the United Nations. Welcome, Rick.
RICHARD GRENELL, former Romney foreign policy spokesperson: Carol, thanks for having me.
COSTELLO: Thanks for being with us today. The big question we're dealing with today is where exactly is that red line when it comes to the United States and Iran?
GRENELL: Well, that red line was established in 2006. I find it shocking that anybody in the media is questioning where that red line was. In 2006, the Bush administration passed five U.N. resolutions on Iran. Then the Obama administration passed one resolution on Iran.
By the way, they haven't passed anything in two-and-a-half years. So the international community is on the record six times, U.N. resolutions, six of them saying that Iran must not enrich any uranium, zero, none, until they can prove that it's for peaceful purposes. We already know that they have been enriching uranium almost to weapons grade 20 percent. Some think they have already surpassed the 20 percent.
So Iran has admitted they have crossed this red line numerous times. Why are we even debating what that red line is? The better question is will we enforce U.N. resolutions? If we're not going to enforce U.N. resolutions let's save a billion dollars and let's not have the U.N.
COSTELLO: I think some voters are concerned about the difference between Governor Romney's red line and President Obama's red line and that's because of this interview with ABC News that Governor Romney did. Let's listen to that.
GRENELL: That's not why.
COSTELLO: Let's listen to this and then we'll discuss.
ROMNEY: My red line is Iran may not have a nuclear weapon. Iran as a nuclear nation is unacceptable to the United States of America.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: President Obama said exactly the same thing. He said it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. So your red line is the same as his?
ROMNEY: I laid out what I would do to keep Iran from reaching that red line. I said that crippling sanctions needed to be put in place immediately.
(End Video Clip)
COSTELLO: Well, you heard Governor Romney, he said yes. It is the same.
GRENELL: He said yes to what?
COSTELLO: To the red line being the same.
GRENELL: I am not disagreeing. We all know what the red line is. It was established in 2006. That's not the question. The question is what do we do now that Iran has passed the red line? The question is are we going to be a weak country and allow a country like Iran, a crazy man –
COSTELLO: What would Governor Romney do? I guess that's what voters want to know.
GRENELL: Let's talk about what the President of the United States should do because the President is the President. And I think we have had a lot of discussions about what Romney should do or what he didn't do. You know, there has been criticism that Romney spoke out too early in the Middle East after 15 hours of a developing violence. How come we're not asking where was the President, why didn't he speak out before 15 hours? There is a lot of looking --
COSTELLO: Let's go back to Israel because that's what we're talking about today, this red line. What would Governor Romney do? What new sanctions would he impose on Iran to stop them from developing a nuclear weapon?
GRENELL: Well first of all, we have six rounds of sanctions already. Again, the Obama administration hasn't put in sanctions in two-and-a-half years at the U.N. So sanctions clearly are not working. They can maybe slow the process down, but sanctions are never going to break a country.
They're never going to say okay we give up, here is our nuclear weapons. They're not going to do that. So the question becomes now that they have crossed the red line, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to sit back and keep moving the red line or are we going to say when we pass international resolutions at the U.N. we actually mean it?
I am not suggesting that we immediately go to war either, Carol because I think a lot of liberals will immediately try to push conservatives into saying there you go with more war talk. It is not what we're saying. But we are saying you need a credible threat, and President Obama has not given a credible threat.
COSTELLO: Let me just add that there are sanctions being imposed on Iran, right? In fact, the President said –
GRENELL: Since 2006.
COSTELLO: He has told Iran's trading partners if you do business with Iran as far as oil goes, you're not going to be involved with our financial institutions.
GRENELL: Do you know when those started, Carol?
COSTELLO: Since that sanction –
GRENELL: Do you know when those started?
COSTELLO: I want to finish my thought here.
GRENELL: July 1st. July 1st.
COSTELLO: Okay, since that sanction –
GRENELL: Three-and-a-half years of nothing.
COSTELLO: Since that sanction went into place, Iran's currency has dropped 50 percent in the last year and it's been virtually cut off from the international banking system. So the Obama administration –
GRENELL: No, that's not true.
COSTELLO: – would say let's give them more time to work and see what happens.
GRENELL: More time, Carol, they haven't put a U.N. sanction in, in two-and-a-half years. They've passed one in four years. The Bush administration, for all the cowboy diplomacy that the Obama team likes to say that they were, had five resolutions. We have had sanctions since 2006. President Obama and his team only decided to put oil sanctions in July 1st. And guess what they did after that? They gave the 20 top oil-producing buyers of Iranian oil waivers.
India is still buying Iranian oil and yet the Obama administration promised the Indians a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. support for that. So I just don't see that it is credible to say that the Obama administration is trying to ratchet up the sanctions. When after two-and-a-half years they've done nothing but decide to do last minute oil sanctions with waivers starting July 1st. The media needs to start looking at policies, not just lip service from this President.
COSTELLO: Well, I think they want Mitt Romney's policy. Like what new sanction would Mitt Romney put into place?
GRENELL: No sanctions. We have enough sanctions. We don't need any more sanctions.
COSTELLO: Okay. Short of military action what would he do to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon?
GRENELL: Again, again, what you have to do is you have to have a credible threat. The other thing you have to do is you have to have a powerful presence in the Middle East. You can't go back and have a weak presence. Let me give you an example, Syria is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iran. This administration, President Obama, sent our U.S. ambassador back to Syria when violence was starting. For the first time in five years we had a U.S. ambassador in Damascus.
Then he pulled the U.S. ambassador back about four months later. He sent the U.S. ambassador back to Damascus only to pull him back six weeks later. This start-and-stop policy sends mixed signals to everybody in the Middle East. We don't have a credible threat. We don't have a policy of strength. We are showing the world weakness. And that's why we're seeing on 9/11 our embassies are being attacked and Americans are less safe. And the media, they still want to talk about whether or not Mitt Romney spoke too soon when President Obama waited 15 hours before he started talking about the violence.