THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FAIRFAX, Va. - Facing criticism, Republican White House nominee Mitt Romney on Thursday muted his barbed attacks against President Barack Obama's handling of a diplomatic crisis and tried to focus the campaign back on the economy.
The GOP challenger delivered a spirited speech and television ad accusing the president of failing American workers. But he did not repeat his assertions that Obama apologized for American values in response to Mideast protests sparked by an obscure anti-Muslim film made in California.
Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in Libya, and demonstrators also tore down flags at U.S. embassies in Egypt and Yemen.
Obama, juggling the work of commander in chief while campaigning in a close race for re-election, told voters he was responding to the crisis by directing his administration to "do whatever is necessary" to protect Americans serving abroad.
"We are going to bring those who killed our fellow Americans to justice," Obama promised the rally in Golden, Colo. The Pentagon has dispatched two warships to the Libyan coast, ready to respond to any mission ordered by the president. Attorney General Eric Holder is returning from meetings in the Mideast to direct a criminal investigation into the consulate deaths.
Romney only briefly mentioned the crisis at the top of his speech in Virginia, one of fewer than 10 battleground states where the campaign is focused with less than eight weeks until Election Day. He spoke broadly about the need to strengthen American leadership overseas and warned that Obama was undercutting U.S. military might.
A heckler yelled out: "Why are you politicizing Libya?" The crowd drowned him out with chants of "U-S-A" and supporters nearby tried to place a Romney/Ryan placard in front of his face. The man ripped up the sign and was escorted out.