Foreign policy took center stage in the presidential race on Thursday, as former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, the overwhelming favorite to win the Republican nomination, took aim at the policies of President Barack Obama -- leading Vice President Joe Biden to fire back for the administration.
While Romney has generally not been focusing on international issues during his campaign for the Republican nomination, he turned to them on Thursday when he unveiled the support of Frank Carlucci, who served as U.S. secretary of Defense and national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan, and Stephen Hadley who was national security adviser under President George W. Bush.
“It is a privilege to have the support of two such outstanding public servants,” said Romney. “There are few leaders who have such distinguished records working in high office to protect this nation. From their time as young officers in the Navy to their many years advising presidents on a broad array of national security issues, Frank and Steve have served our country with great distinction. I am honored to have their support and grateful to have their counsel.”
Drawing upon his years in the Reagan administration, Carlucci offered some comparisons between the former president and Romney.
“Governor Romney understands that America’s future security depends on restoring our economy and maintaining a military and diplomatic posture that advances both American interests and American values,” said Carlucci. “Indeed, in the tradition of Ronald Reagan, Governor Romney grasps the deep interconnection between the two. I had the honor of serving President Reagan and I know something about his extraordinary leadership abilities. Mitt Romney has similar extraordinary qualities as a leader. At this moment of great global uncertainty, we urgently need him in the White House.”
Hadley also praised Romney, insisting the former Massachusetts governor had “the makings of a great president.”
“Over the course of his career, Governor Romney has tackled a wide variety of problems and challenges, and at every step of the way he demonstrated discipline, intelligence, judgment, and courage,” insisted Hadley.
Looking to open up another line of attack on Thursday, the Romney team showcased a piece in Foreign Policy from Richard Williamson, an adviser to the Republican presidential hopeful who worked on international issues during the Reagan and George W. Bush presidencies, comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter on dealing with North Korea
The Obama team responded as Biden weighed in on international issues during a speech in New York on Thursday.
Biden referred to a statement Romney made in 2008 when he insisted that the president does not need to be a “foreign policy expert” and if “we want somebody who has a lot of experience in foreign policy, we can simply go to the State Department and pluck out one of the tens of thousands of people who work there ... that’s not how we choose a president. A president is not a foreign policy expert.”
The vice president slammed Romney for making that statement. “The last thing we need is a president who will subcontract our foreign policy to some expert at the State Department," Biden insisted. "That kind of thinking may work for a CEO, but I assure you it cannot and will not work for a president."
Biden also insisted in the speech that Romney would restore the policies backed by President George W. Bush, namely unilaterilism and even citing one of that president’s famous quotes at the start of the war on terror. The vice president attacked Romney for looking to go “back to a foreign policy that would have America go it alone, shout to the world you're either with us or against us, lash out first and ask the hard questions later, if at all."
The Romney team countered with a conference call with the media featuring Dan Senor, who served as a spokesman for the military during the initial stages of the military operations there, and former U.S. Navy Secretary John Lehman who served in the Reagan administration.
Senor slammed both Obama and Biden in the call, firing back on the vice president’s take on Romney’s foreign policy.
“The vice president seems to focus on a fantasy narrative, if you will, about the Obama administration’s record in improving America’s relations in the world, ‘repairing’ relations with American allies and that Governor Romney would take America’s foreign policy and national security strategy back to a period where America’s going it alone,” Senor said. “And our only reaction to Vice President Biden’s characterization of both the administration’s track record and the direction Governor Romney would like to take it in is, which allies and which friends is he talking about?”
Senor attempted to play some political ju jitsu and turn the attack around, insisting that the Obama foreign policy had left America isolated from her traditional allies.
“It is President Obama’s track record that has sent a message to our friends and allies, be they in governments or be they in dissident movements who want to stand with us, who want to lock arms with us, who are looking to American leadership, who are really left exposed and isolated in a way that I have not seen in American foreign policy history for years,” Senor said.
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