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Romney: Assad Has To Go

Romney tells Larry Kudlow that Obama has been too soft on Assad. "I think from the very beginning we misread the setting in Syria," he says.

Posted on July 23, 2012, at 4:40 p.m. ET

In an interview airing tonight on CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report," presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney declared that Syrian president Bashar Assad has to go — and blamed the Obama administration for the length of the crisis.

Romney placed much of the blame on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying she and the rest of the Obama administration "misread the setting in Syria."

"The Secretary of State said that Assad was a reformer," he said. "That's a phrase which will obviously go down in history as being poorly timed and entirely inaccurate."

KUDLOW: And last one, Governor, appreciate your time very much. You're going to Europe and you're going to Israel. Let me ask you your view of President Obama. Has he been tough enough in ousting Assad? After all, that would be a signal to Iran and to Hezbollah. Prime Minister Netanyahu talked about that yesterday. Is the United States being tough enough on Assad?

Gov. ROMNEY: Well, I think from the very beginning we misread the setting in Syria. The secretary of state said that Assad was a reformer. That's a phrase which will obviously go down in history as being poorly timed and entirely inaccurate. This is a person who is killing his own people and was at the time. America should've come out very aggressively from the very beginning and said Assad must go. At this stage, America is taking action, covert and overt, to try and encourage a change of leadership there. But the Middle East itself, with all of the violence which has occurred and which is occurring now in Syria, is a place of tumult and disarray and the world looks for American leadership and American strength. And it is time for us to have confidence that our cause is just, to have the kind of clarity of vision in our purpose and to have the kind of resolve behind our application of soft and hard power. And if those things are put in place, I think the world is a safer place and our freedom will be more secure.

KUDLOW: But is there any doubt in your mind that Assad has to go?

Gov. ROMNEY: Oh, there's no question but that Assad has to go. I think even the Russians from news reports I'm reading have recognized that he must go. We don't want to see a continuation of the same kind of brutality, which has characterized the last several months. But what follows Assad, we just don't know. But a person of this nature that's overseen the killing of his own people is obviously someone who's unfit to lead.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.