The Republican White House ticket sought to neuter the perceived foreign policy edge of the Obama electoral campaign on Sunday, attacking the president’s record whilst bragging of their own experience overseas.
The current administration was guilty of failing to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Mitt Romney claimed during an interview with NBC’s Face the Nation. Meanwhile, in a separate TV appearance, his running mate, Paul Ryan, was attempting to make the claim that he is better versed in foreign policy matters than Obama was four years ago, by virtue of Ryan’s longer public service record in Washington.
It represented a two-pronged approach to countering what is seen to be a Democratic advantage going into this year’s election. Obama’s campaign team have made much of the president’s decision to pull troops out of Iraq and embark on military drawdown in Afghanistan, as well as highlight the assassination of Osama bin Laden.
Meanwhile, Romney has made a somewhat clumsy opening gambit as a potential overseas ambassador for the US.
In his first foreign trip as a White House candidate he offended one of America’s closest allies, the UK, by criticising efforts to prepare for the Olympic Games and drew fierce criticism for suggesting while in Israel that the Palestinians’ relative poverty was due to cultural differences.
Compounding the view that Obama has an edge in terms of perceived handling of foreign policy, the Republican hopeful opened himself up to mockery in his recent convention speech in Tampa by suggesting that Russia remained the US’s “number one geo-political foe”.
Vice-president Joe Biden has said the comment showed Romney was “stuck in a Cold War mindset”.
But speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation, Ryan defended his running mate’s comments.
“I think what he was saying was among the other powers, China and Russia, that Russia stands a great threat,” he said, adding: “Iran is our biggest foreign policy threat today”.
The Republican vice-presidential pick also sough to push his own foreign policy credentials, boasting that he had more experience than Obama had in the run up to 2008’s election.
Challenged on what made him better qualified, considering then-senator Obama had sat on the Senate foreign relations committee, Ryan cited his 14 years in Congress.
He added: “I’ve voted to send men and women to war. I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve met with our troops to get their perspectives. I’ve been to the funerals, I’ve talked to the widows, I’ve talked to the wives, the moms and the dads. That’s something. That matters.”