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Foreign Policy Is Back for Elections

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (left) said President Barack Obama is doing a “solid job” on foreign policy, while ranking member John McCain (right) and other Republicans have been vocal critics of the administration’s approach.

McCain, who has been one of the most vocal critics of the administration's approach to foreign policy, said he is making the case "all the time" against Obama, from questioning why America let NATO take the lead in Libya last spring to "attributing directly" the problems in Afghanistan to the president's "continuous statements of early withdrawals."

McCain, who officially has endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination, added, "And Mitt makes the case," too.

Despite his serious concerns with America's foreign policy approach in a volatile time for the world, McCain conceded that what is happening thousands of miles away might not be on the minds of voters as they head to the polls.

"I think it's a very important issue, but the question is: Is it important to the American people who are still worried about jobs and the economy?" McCain said. "It's a vitally important issue, but I understand when Arizonans, when nearly half their homes are still underwater, they want to hear the candidates talk about how to solve the housing crisis."

Obama addressed growing concerns with Iran and the nation's continued attempts to build its nuclear capability, as well as Israel's response to it, in an interview with the Atlantic magazine that was published Friday. Obama also defended himself against charges from Republicans that he would not take military action against Iran in the face of nuclear threats.

"If people want to say about me that I have a profound preference for peace over war, that every time I order young men and women into a combat theater and then see the consequences on some of them, if they're lucky enough to come back, that this weighs on me I make no apologies for that," Obama said. "These aren't video games that we're playing here."

But he said Iran and Israel should know that he doesn't "bluff" when it comes to the United States' resolve to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iranians. "When the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say," he said.

He also challenged Republicans on the charge that he has not been a strong leader, noting his decisiveness in going after bin Laden.

"It's not an argument that the American people buy. They may have complaints about high unemployment still and that the recovery needs to move faster, but you don't hear a lot of them arguing somehow that I hesitate to make decisions as commander in chief when necessary," Obama said.

In fact, it's not an argument many Republicans have been quick to make. Cornyn, for example, when discussing foreign policy, brought up the idea of "leadership" but used it to pivot to the economy, noting that Obama is "generally not able to [lead] in domestic policy."

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