By Jeremy Herb
President Obama said GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney’s attacks on his foreign policy record would not withstand “a serious debate,” in an interview with Time Magazine’s Fareed Zakaria.
Obama touted his foreign policy credentials in excerpts of the interview that were released ahead of the magazine Wednesday, accusing Romney of placating the Republican base with his attacks.
“I think Mr. Romney and the rest of the Republican field are going to be playing to their base until the primary season is over,” Obama said. “Overall, I think it’s going to be pretty hard to argue that we have not executed a strategy over the last three years that has put America in a stronger position than it was than when I came into office.”
The knock on Romney in the interview is in a similar vein to a response Obama gave at a press conference last month after he was criticized for “appeasement” on Iran. “Ask Osama bin Laden…whether I engage in appeasement,” Obama said.
The interview signals a potential general election theme for the Obama campaign, where the president can use foreign policy as a strength, not a liability, as it has often been for Democrats in presidential elections.
In addition to killing bin Laden, Obama ended the Iraq war — fulfilling a campaign promise — and oversaw the fall of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Foreign policy has largely been a dormant issue so far in a presidential election campaign dominated by the economy. But recent tensions with Iran could revive national security in the 2012 election — as well as threaten to undermine Obama’s position if things take a turn for the worse.
In the Time interview, Obama said he was successfully able to “pivot” from President George W. Bush’s policies abroad. He also dismissed the frequent GOP criticism that he was “apologizing for America.”
“I think there is a strong belief that we continue to be a superpower unique perhaps in the annals of history that is not only self-interested but is also thinking about how to create a set of international rules and norms that everyone can follow, everyone can benefit from,” Obama said.
On Iran, Obama reiterated that no options were off the table to prevent the country from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“I have made myself clear since I began running for the presidency that we will take every step available to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said. “Can we guarantee that Iran takes the smarter path? No, which is why I’ve repeatedly said we don’t take any options off the table in preventing them from getting a nuclear weapon.”