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Obama, Romney Square Off on Foreign Policy

Obama, Romney Square Off on Foreign Policy

By Julie Pace - July 25, 2012


SEATTLE (AP) -- In a rare face-off on foreign policy, President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney are swapping sharp criticism but exposing few clear policy differences on key national security matters.

For Romney, who seeks to boost his foreign policy credentials as he begins a high-stakes trip abroad, a lack of specific proposals has exposed him to a flurry of criticism from Obama and his surrogates. Just over three months from Election Day, the president's team has dug in on its efforts to cast the Republican as a national security lightweight while trying to capitalize on Obama's strength on such issues.

Following Romney's speech Tuesday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Vice President Joe Biden said Romney "reflexively criticizes the president's policies without offering any alternatives."

"When he does venture a position," Biden said, "it's a safe bet that he previously took exactly the opposite position and will probably change his mind again and land in the wrong place – far out of the mainstream."

Romney's campaign has swatted away that criticism, but it's also shown few signs that the presumptive GOP nominee will offer more specific areas of contrast with Obama when he meets with world leaders overseas. Instead, Romney has continued with broad jabs casting Obama as a timid leader.

"If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I am not your president," Romney told the veterans group. "You have that president today."

Romney said he would reset Obama's reset with the Kremlin, but he did not elaborate on how. On Afghanistan, he accused Obama of making politically motivated decisions on drawing down U.S. force levels. He said that, if elected, he will call for a review of the transition in Afghanistan – but with the same goal as Obama of ending U.S. combat operations in 2014.

Romney also said he will restore the U.S.-Israel relationship and make the Jewish state his first foreign destination as president. He said he would increase military assistance to Israel, though the Obama team says the administration has already provided Israel with record levels of security assistance.

The foreign policy fight was expected to continue as Romney arrives in Europe on Wednesday to begin a six-day, three-country tour and Obama pushes on with fundraising events at home. The president was jetting from Seattle, where he raised money Tuesday night, to New Orleans for more fundraisers and a speech to the National Urban League. 

In an election year dominated by the economy, it could be the last phase of the campaign focused on foreign policy.

That could be good news for Romney, who polls strongly on the economy but has been unable to cut into Obama's advantage on national security issues. The Obama administration's counterterrorism fight against al-Qaida and especially the killing of Osama bin Laden have undercut longtime Republican efforts to cast Democrats as soft on defense.

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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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