Republicans used their convention on Wednesday to attack US President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, blaming him for drastic cuts in military spending and policies that they said have allowed US influence in the world to wane.
The blitz came as foreign policy took a central role at the nominating convention set to crown former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney the party’s presidential nominee.
After 2008 Republican flagbearer Senator John McCain issued a scathing assessment that Obama had let US allies down, former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice took the podium to make the case that Romney would be a far more capable leader of the free world.
The multimillionaire businessman has little actual overseas experience other than his stint in France as a Mormon missionary, and the speech by Rice, 57, to the Republican National Convention shed some light on his foreign policy vision and prerogatives.
The former top US diplomat charged Obama’s foreign policy failures span the globe “from Israel to Colombia, from Poland to the Philippines.”
However, unlike the Democratic president, Mitt and his running mate Paul Ryan “know what to do. They know that our friends and allies must again be able to trust us,” Rice said.
For his part, Romney made a brief foray away from the convention where he told members of the American Legion that Obama had allowed global hotspots like Iran, North Korea and Syria to fester during his administration.
“The world continues to be a dangerous place. Major powers are rapidly adding to their military capabilities, sometimes with intentions very different from our own,” he said at a veterans’ event in Indiana.
He said Iran was closing in on nuclear weapons capability, and warned of “horrific violence in Syria” among other international concerns, and said that Obama has made a dangerous world more so.
“President Obama has allowed our leadership to diminish,” Romney said.
He later returned to Tampa, where McCain — the party’s presidential nominee in 2008 and a Vietnam war hero who is known for his tough foreign policy stands — echoed his concerns.
“For four years, we’ve drifted away from our proudest traditions of global leadership,” McCain said.
“We can’t afford to stay on that course any longer. We can’t afford to cause our friends and allies, from Latin America to Europe and Asia, to the Middle East and especially in Israel, a country under existential threat, to doubt America’s leadership,” he said to welcoming applause.
Romney said his trip last month to Britain, Israel and Poland, gave him an “even firmer conviction” that the US must take a preeminent security role in the world.
And he lashed out at the 10-year, US$1 trillion across-the-board budget cuts that are due to kick in early next year if Congress does not act. Those are in addition to the US$487 billion in Pentagon cuts over the next decade that Congress already committed to making.
He said that a Romney administration would slash federal spending, but not on the military.
“There are plenty of places to cut in a federal budget that now totals well over $3 trillion a year, but defense is not one of them,” he said.
In a nod to the Jewish vote, a short video played at the convention highlighted Romney’s visit to Israel and showed footage of the candidate as he wrote a prayer and placed it in a crack in the Western Wall.