HILLSDALE, Mich. - In a speech to Hillsdale College graduates yesterday about confronting a world filled with evil, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said America should combat radical Islam by bulking up its military.
"There is no safe place if evil is unrestrained," the former Massachusetts governor said during his address at the campus 80 miles northwest of Toledo.
"The weak may hide, but they become weaker still, until at last they are discovered and easily conquered. History teaches us this: The best ally of peace is a strong America."
Mr. Romney proposed adding 100,000 troops and keeping defense spending at 4 percent or more of America's gross domestic product, a remark that garnered applause from the families and friends of Hillsdale's 306 listed graduates. With $580 billion projected to cover the U.S. military and Iraq war this year, defense spending already is above the 4 percent mark.
The 15-minute address, which compared foreign leaders such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler, came after a week in which 11 Republican congressmen threatened President Bush with legislative desertion if conditions fail to improve in Iraq by September.
At Hillsdale, Iraq became a rallying point.
Graduates gave a standing ovation to classmate Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron Hummel, who spent much of the past academic year in Iraq patrolling the city of Fallujah. The class raised $6,782 to help Mr. Hummel complete his Hillsdale education next year.
Mr. Romney's only criticism of the war was that nonmilitary resources moved too slowly after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship.
He suggested consolidating all U.S. foreign aid agencies into one entity that could deliver social services to poorer nations, explaining that "only Muslims will be able to defeat radical jihad."
Mr. Romney also encouraged economic resilience and called for higher education standards, less taxation and regulation, and a shift toward energy independence.
Mr. Romney spoke last week to graduates at Regent University in Virginia, which was established by televangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson.
Hillsdale President Larry Arnn introduced Mr. Romney at yesterday's outdoor ceremony by proudly acknowledging the college's intertwined, but separate, relationship with the Republican Party, which a Hillsdale president helped found more than 150 years ago in nearby Jackson, Mich.
"It would not be like our college to distance ourself from any political party in the middle of a war," he said. "And it would not be like our college to devote itself to the election of any political party in the short term. We are a teaching place. But the principles that underlie every decent political party - they are taught here."
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