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Campaigns spar over foreign policy, Gibbs says Romney not ‘ready’ for world

Top advisers for the presidential campaigns scuffled on Sunday over their candidates’ stances on foreign policy, with Romney aide Kevin Madden touting the GOP candidate’s strong support for Israel, and senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs pointing to a series of gaffes to argue that Romney was not “ready” to lead.

Kevin Madden, a top adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said while in Israel the former Massachusetts governor would "stand strong with our allies there, and there would be "some strong statements coming out of Israel," on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

Romney stopped in Israel on Saturday, part of a three-country international trip to bolster his foreign policy credential. His campaign has hammered the Obama administration on its Israel policy, accusing the president of being a weak ally.

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Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to the president's campaign, pushed back, saying that a number of gaffes during Romney’s visit to London revealed him as a candidate who is neither ready for the U.S. nor the world stage. 

"Look, Mitt Romney wondered aloud whether London was ready for the Olympics, and I think it's clear that voters in this country wonder aloud whether Mitt Romney is ready for the world, and I think the world is not yet ready for Mitt Romney," he said.

Romney was forced to backtrack comments suggesting that London would not be prepared to host the games after he received sharp criticism from British Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson.


Gibbs also rejected charges that Obama has been an unsteady friend to Israel, saying that the president had been clear for more than three-and-a-half years that "Israel certainly does have the right to defend itself and defend its citizens."

"We have never taken any option off the table in dealing with the nuclear program in Iran," he added.

"President Obama has led the strongest international coalition ever assembled with the strongest sanctions ever levied on the country of Iran.  

"We've made progress in delaying that nuclear program. And, obviously, our goal, the world's goal is to prevent Iran from having a nuclear program, and I think we're making progress on that."

Romney’s campaign added to the controversy on Sunday after a top foreign policy adviser suggesting that Romney would back a decision by Israel to launch a military strike against Iran. 

The presumptive GOP nominee dialed back those comments, saying only that he would “respect” a decision by Israel to launch a unilateral strike to prevent Tehran from acquitting nuclear weapons.

“I’ll use my own words, and that is I respect the right of Israel to defend itself, and we stand with Israel,” Romney said in Israel, during an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Romney has avoided directly criticizing President Obama or outlining policies that differ from the White House stance, saying he would not do so while abroad.  He hasn't hesitated to pounce on the president's policies toward Israel while campaigning in the United States. 

Madden didn't touch specifically on those comments in his remarks on Sunday morning but instead said "there are many folks up on Capitol Hill who've worked with this administration that believe that and wish that the president had been stronger, that he had moved quicker, that he had done so with a much more collaborative fashion up on Capitol Hill" over Iran sanctions and polices in regard to Israel. 

"Overall, I think that Mitt Romney has sent a strong message to the folks of Israel that not only is he visiting there to send these messages now, but also that he would visit as president," Madden said, a jab at Obama, whom Republicans have criticized for not visiting Israel as president.

An Obama campaign aide last week said the president would visit the country if he were reelected.

Meanwhile, Romney's campaign was still fending off the miscues their candidate made during his brief stay in London for the start of the Olympics. 

"Well, I think this is an election, again, that the public is viewing around big things," Madden said. 

"I don't think that a gaffe or a YouTube moment is really going to make or break this particular election. I think it's going to be about the direction of the country, how we rebuild the economy, how we continue to have a stronger national security posture around the globe."