VAN METER, Iowa — One day after criticizing President Obama for his handling of the deadly assault on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, Mitt Romney revealed that he had met one of the former Navy SEALs killed at the diplomatic compound there.
Mr. Romney told a story for the first time of having met a young man at a neighbor’s home in Massachusetts, a former SEAL, and having discussed their mutual love of skiing and the new acquaintance’s postmilitary career in security work in the Middle East.
“You can image how I felt,” Mr. Romney said, “when I found out he was one of the two former Navy SEALs killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11.”
His campaign confirmed that the man, whom Mr. Romney did not name, was Glen A. Doherty, 42, a native of Winchester, Mass., who died at the diplomatic compound with the American ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, when militants attacked.
Mr. Romney introduced Mr. Doherty’s death as part of a passage he has recently added to his stump speech about people he knew whose lives were cut short. As he has in recent days, he also mentioned befriending and counseling a 14-year-old boy with leukemia. The material is part of an effort the Romney campaign acknowledges is meant to humanize Mr. Romney’s image, which he himself initiated. The crowd quietly gasped at the description of Mr. Doherty.
But the story also seemed to serve a more political purpose, too, a reminder of Republican criticism of the Obama administration’s failure to quickly acknowledge that the Benghazi assault was the premeditated work of terrorists. In a foreign policy address on Monday, Mr. Romney harshly criticized the president for failing to assert American leadership across the Middle East.
On Tuesday, Mr. Romney seemed to draw a parallel between Mr. Doherty’s rushing into harm’s way in Benghazi and Mr. Romney’s own efforts to come to the aid of his country.
“This is the American way, we go where there’s trouble, we go where we’re needed,’’ Mr. Romney said of Mr. Doherty. “And right now we’re needed. Right now the American people need us. This is a critical time for us.’’
He pledged that “when I become president,’’ he would strengthen the economy, the American family and American values.