With the attacks in Benghazi, Libya still haunting President Obama, his campaign appears ready to play offense. On the eve of the final presidential debate on foreign policy, Democrats Sunday drew a portrait of Romney as an untested politician who bungled his way through a summer trip abroad and could potentially “bluster” his way into a war with Iran.
With appearances on the Sunday talk show circuit and a new campaign video, Team Obama made a concerted effort to paint Mitt Romney as a risky choice for commander in chief while shaming Republicans for politicizing the Libya attacks.
“[P]eople want to know that they have a strong, steady hand in the Oval Office,” David Axelrod, a top adviser to the Obama campaign, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” And they don’t want someone who’s reckless and who’s been consistently wrong on foreign policy issues, as Governor Romney has.”
Axelrod continued: “We all remember his Dukes of Hazard tour of international destinations of the summer where he not only roiled countries that are not as friendly to us, but our best ally, Britain. He was wrong on Libya. He was wrong on Iraq.”
On the subject of Libya, Axelrod quickly criticized Romney’s response to the crisis as a brazen attempt to score political points. “Even while the flames were burning in Benghazi, Mitt Romney was sending out political press releases on this,” Axelrod said.
“Governor Romney just seems to be bluster, blunder, cowboy alone foreign policy,” Bill Richardson, the former New Mexico governor said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” coming as close as possible to comparing Romney’s foreign policy approach to George W. Bush’s without actually using the former president’s name. By contrast, Richardson said, Obama has a “very strong record” which includes decimating al Qaeda and restoring alliances.
The Obama campaign also released a video Sunday in which foreign policy experts portray Romney and running mate Paul Ryan as an inexperienced, undisciplined foreign policy duo.
“This bluster, or this constant, ‘well, we’ll just be strong and tough,’” retired Admiral John Nathman says in the video. “Well what does really tough mean?”
The video then cuts to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “If he’s talking about going to war with Iran, he needs to tell us,” she says. “The sense in some of the ways that he’s talked about Iraq or Syria of Afghanistan is that he might want to redeploy troops.”
For their part, Republicans continued to push a narrative they have embraced since the Libya attacks: That Obama’s foreign policy is unraveling in the Middle East and that he has misled the American people when it comes to the deadly attacks in Benghazi.
Newt Gingrich laid out the argument on “State of the Union” Sunday: “You look at Libya where you have a country where even today, we’re in arguments over Benghazi which ought to lead every person to worry about our intelligence capabilities,” he said. “And I think you can go country by country and see sort of the fraying at the edges of the Obama policy.”
On Iran, which promises to be a big topic in Monday night’s debate, Republicans largely dismissed reports that the United States and Iran may be close to talks over Iran’s nuclear program. “They continue to enrich, enrich. I think the time for talking is over,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) also played down the reports, saying on “Meet the Press” that it sounded like “another example of a national security leak from the White House.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.