WASHINGTON — A quartet of Republican former secretaries of state endorsed Mitt Romney for president Thursday, warning that the current anemic economic recovery could imperil US influence around the world.
Romney, according to polls, is seen less favorably by US voters than President Barack Obama when it comes to foreign policy, and the Republican's campaign has instead focused on what they say is the president's failure to turn the economy around and improve the standing of America's middle class.
The opinion column in The Washington Times by diplomatic dignitaries Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker and Condoleezza Rice served to link the foreign and domestic platforms.
"American leadership remains critical to global peace and prosperity," the four top diplomats of Republican presidents of the last 40 years wrote in the conservative newspaper.
"But we cannot be strong militarily, politically or diplomatically unless we are strong economically."
They said the "anemic" economic recovery of recent years under Obama "has weakened our influence in the world and shaken the confidence of our friends and allies."
"If the US economy continues to stagnate, then predictions of an American retreat from greatness could come true," the group added.
Kissinger, Shultz, Baker and Rice also called for "pro-growth strategies that will renew our ailing economy" that would emulate those enacted under Republican president Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
Obama -- who was not named in the column -- stemmed the hemorrhaging of jobs that was occurring as he took office in January 2009 with the country mired in deep recession, but he has been unable to bring unemployment below eight percent in the 43 months since.
It currently stands at 8.3 percent, and new jobs data due Friday is expected by analysts to show little if any change in the rate.
On the diplomatic front, Republicans have sought to paint Obama as coddling China by not cracking down on trade abuses, failing to get tough on Iran and its nuclear ambitions, cozying up to Moscow and weakening the alliance with Israel.
Romney, the former diplomatic chiefs said, has the "strategy and temperament to lead a robust economic recovery," and understands the need to maintain alliances and US military strength.
"Most of all, he recognizes that America is at its best when it assumes a leadership role on the world stage," they added.
They also said that despite a protracted recession, fiscal crisis and polarized politics in Washington, "we remain fundamentally optimistic about the future."
Absent from the quartet was Colin Powell, president George W. Bush's first secretary of state who endorsed Obama for president in 2008 but has yet to official throw his support behind any candidate this year.