While both sides agree that the economy remains unhealthy, even as they debate what to do about it, there is disagreement over America’s standing in the world after a decade of war.
The debate centers on approach as much as on policy, and in some ways it reverses the critique that Obama leveled against the previous administration. As a candidate in 2008, Obama pledged to repair America’s image abroad, particularly in the Muslim world and among allies in Europe.
Obama believes he has succeeded, in large part by adopting a style of leadership abroad that resembles the one he used as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side — someone who seeks consensus, works with allies and assembles coalitions to achieve shared goals.
His approach to the Libyan revolution, where he encouraged European allies to take the lead in diplomacy and in the months-long military campaign, typified the role he sees for the United States at a time of fiscal strife at home.
But Romney — and, a day earlier, Texas Gov. Rick Perry — has accused Obama of weak, overly cautious leadership. Their approach, although only generally outlined so far, more closely resembles the Bush administration’s suspicion of international alliances and belief that U.S. military and moral strength should be celebrated, even in parts of the world where the United States remains deeply unpopular.
“Have we ever had a president who was so eager to address the world with an apology on his lips and doubt in his heart?” Romney told a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in San Antonio. “He seems truly confused not only about America’s past but also about its future.”
In his 17-minute speech, Romney offered the clearest outline of his views on foreign affairs since launching his second presidential bid in June. He told nearly 1,000 veterans assembled at the cavernous Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center that “we are united not only by our faith in America, but also our concern for America.”
“Unfortunately, when we look around the world today, we see a muddled picture of America’s foreign policy and our power,” he said.
In his own remarks Tuesday at the American Legion convention in Minneapolis, Obama portrayed the 2 million American troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a “9/11 generation” whose “astonishing record of achievement” has helped reshape the globe as a freer, safer place. He compared them to America’s beloved “greatest generation” that served in World War II.
Obama told 6,000 Legion veterans, dressed in blue blazers and military-style caps with service pins, that the 30,000 additional troops he ordered to Afghanistan in 2009 drove the Taliban from its safe havens. And he mentioned a clear victory for his counterterrorism policy.