Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 10/23/2011

Sen. Graham to GOP field: Step it up on foreign policy

Maybe Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) didn’t hear Mitt Romney’s major speech on foreign policy, or Jon Huntsman’s speech where he called for erasing the old map.

Or maybe he just doesn’t like what he’s heard.

Over the last year, President Obama has overseen the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, approved U.S. participation in the NATO airstrikes that helped bring down Moammar Gaddafi and committed to pulling all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by year’s end. In the meantime, Graham says, the Republican presidential hopefuls have failed to forge a strong focus or coherent message on foreign affairs.

He has a blunt message for them:

“To the Republican party, national security matters, step up on it,” Graham said in a Sunday interview on Fox News.


Republican presidential candidates in Tampa, Florida in September. (Joe Raedle - GETTY IMAGES)

Graham, who sits on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, has been critical of Obama’s approach to Libya and his decision to pull out the remaining 39,000 American troops in Iraq without a residual force. He said the GOP field has some questions to answer, and maintains that, so far, the candidates have not challenged Obama in a robust enough way.

“I want our presidential candidates to talk about foreign policy. What would you do with Gitmo, would you use it, would you let the CIA interrogate prisoners, what would you do in Afghanistan?” Graham said. “At the end of the day these decisions that President Obama is making, I think, are strategically unsound, and our people need to step up and challenge him. We’ve got a jobs problem, we’ve got a national security problem that’s growing by the day.”

So far, Republicans have hammered Obama on the economy, maintaining that 2012 will be won or lost over jobs. Last week, after Obama announced that the troop pull-out from Iraq would be completed by year’s end, they questioned his leadership and pronounced him a failure.Yet there is hardly a unified approach to foreign policy among Republican candidates, with some candidates advocating defense cuts and reducing the nation's footprint and others wanting to expand the defense budget and flex American power.

For their part, Democrats, while acknowledging that foreign policy will likely take a back seat to jobs in the campaign, see Obama’s approach to foreign policy as a clear way to push back against claims that he is indecisive and lacks leadership.

Priorities USA, a top Democratic group, sent out a memo called In 2012, Leadership matters:

“The President has proven himself a strong commander-in-chief while Mitt Romney has shown himself to be weak and rudderless when it comes to what it takes to lead America’s military,” Bill Burton, who leads the strategy firm, wrote.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said it’s Obama who has answered the 3 a.m. call, and she subtly questioned his opponents.

“I think Americans are going to want to know that they have a steady, experienced, smart hand on the tiller of the ship of state,” she said. “And there’s no doubt that that’s Barack Obama.”

Among Republicans, Graham has always been a leading voice on foreign policy. The question is, does the GOP field feel like it needs to listen? Or will sporadic foreign policy developments be an afterthought on the trail?

WHERE TO FIND THE CANDIDATES:

Romney will hold a rally and file the official paperwork for the New Hampshire Primary at 9:15 a.m. in Concord.

Rick Santorum will stump in Iowa with seven events throughout the day, starting out with a meet-and-greet in Red Oak at Fountain Perk. He hits the Glenwood Public Library at 10 a.m., then meets voters at Depot Deli at 11:30 a.m. at Shenandoah. Next up is J’s Pizza & Steak House in Clarinda, then Bedford at 3 p.m. at the Junction Cafe, then two more events in Mount Ayr and Corning.

Newt Gingrich will hold a town hall meeting at 1:30 p.m. .in Davenport, Iowa.

President Obama heads West, where he will speak at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas at 1 p.m., meet with homeowners to kick off a focus on housing at 2:10, and then head to Los Angeles, where he is slated to hold big money fund-raisers with Hollywood A-listers Will and Jada Smith, Eva Longoria, Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderes.

WORTH READING:

Herman Cain, the lobbyist

Rick Perry, Parade Magazine coverboy

Mitt Romney on the flat tax

Obama leads Iowa money race

GOP contest centers on characterr

WORTH WATCHING: Cain vs. Clinton

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 10/23/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company