By John T. Bennett - 12/14/11 03:01 PM EST
Republican members took turns Tuesday slamming President Obama for a series of foreign-policy and national-security decisions he’s made, with several dubbing the moves a collective failure.
In a likely preview of the 2012 election cycle, the GOP lawmakers repeatedly accused Obama of putting his political fortunes first when making war policies, and said his Iraq troop withdrawal will create a stronger Iran.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), seen by many as a potential 2012 vice presidential candidate, charged that Obama’s plans to withdraw 20,000 American troops from Afghanistan by next fall — and all U.S. forces by 2014 — are mostly “about fulfilling a campaign promise.”
The president also has erred, Rubio said, by setting a course to remove most of the post-9/11 U.S. military footprint from the Middle East.
The United States should maintain some permanent bases in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan to carry out missions in the future, Rubio said.
Several of the Republican presidential contenders have blasted Obama for his decision to withdrawal all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) claimed the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq has “empowered Iran,” echoing an argument made for months by other GOP members who say Tehran is poised to meddle in Iraqi affairs. Some have even called Iraq a likely “puppet state” of Iran.
The freshman senator — another rising GOP star — took a hard jab at Obama, saying the nation “needs a president who does what is best for strategic interests,” not so he has fodder “before the 2012 election.”
Obama has heard — and sharply answered — his GOP foreign-policy critics before.
“Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al Qaeda leaders who have been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement,” Obama said during a White House press briefing last Thursday. “Or whoever is left out there, ask them about that.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) hit Obama hard on his handling of the Iraq war.
The Senate Armed Services Committee member used a football analogy to blast Obama’s decision to remove all U.S. troops by the end of this month.
The move is the equivalent of “fumbling the ball inside the 10 [yard line],” Graham said. Obama inherited an Iraq objective that was “about to be achieved,” the lawmaker said, but botched the final plays.
Graham questioned whether Obama and his administration ever seriously considered leaving U.S. military forces in Iraq after a Dec. 31 deadline for getting them out expired. Graham claimed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told him in a meeting that he was “very interested” in a significant number of American forces remaining next year.
Contrary to their public comments, administration officials “never put a follow-on force [plan] on the table,” Graham said. “They never wanted one.”
Lawmakers and experts say there is a strong chance Iraq could descend into sectarian violence when U.S. forces leave.
Graham struck that tone, saying: “We have completely left the place in a lurch.”
Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he hopes Obama will not use a Wednesday speech at Fort Bragg, N.C., to declare victory in Iraq.
McCain said such an action would be “presumptuous,” because Obama opposed launching the Iraq war.