President Obama's campaign aggressively hit back against Mitt Romney's foreign policy speech on Monday, challenging the GOP nominee to "bring it on."
"Mitt Romney once again tried to engage the president on foreign policy, and we have a simple message for him: Bring it on," said Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt.
"President Obama has shown time and again that he is a tough, responsible and steady commander-in-chief," LaBolt noted. "Mitt Romney has shown throughout this campaign that he would be the exact opposite. Behind the tough talk, he has been erratic, unsteady and irresponsible in his audition on the world stage."
In a speech earlier Monday at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney blasted Obama, arguing that "hope is not a strategy" in shaping foreign policy.
"It is the responsibility of our president to use America’s great power to shape history, not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events. Unfortunately, that is exactly where we find ourselves in the Middle East under President Obama," Romney said.
But the Obama campaign vigorously defended the president's record, arguing that Romney had failed to outline "what he would do differently," while reciting facts that "are just dead wrong."
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that the Romney speech would sound "pretty good" to "those who are not totally into foreign policy," but, that in actuality, the address was "full of platitude and free of substance."
The majority of the Obama conference call with reporters was dominated with Albright and LaBolt jabbing Romney for having held unclear or inconsistent positions earlier in his career on American military decisions, and mocking the public stumbles of his foreign tour earlier this year. LaBolt read from a New York Times story published Monday that detailed some of the internal strife behind the scenes at the Romney campaign, where different factions of foreign policy advisers were advocating differing approaches on the Republican nominee's strategy.
But the duo also highlighted some of the critiques Romney leveled at Obama during his address, including knocking the president for pulling entirely out of Iraq.
"How's he going to turn the page on the failed policies of the past if he wants to keep 20,000 troops in Iraq?" LaBolt asked.
The pair also knocked Romney for his argument that aid to Egypt should be preconditioned on certain foreign objectives, with LaBolt saying many of Romney's foreign policy goals, especially in relation to Israel, already came as a requirement for aid dispersal.
Albright added that loading aid with too many conditions could undermine elected leadership in economically struggling countries and give opportunity to wealthy sponsors of terror targeting those disgruntled by the economy.
"If you sometimes just load conditions on it, you can't get anything done, because you just lose leverage … by conditioning it so much it looks like they are responding to our orders," Albright said.
She also knocked Romney's continued targeting of Russia as "weird" and insisted that the American relationship with Israel remained strong.
"I know from my own conversations with Israelis that they are basically very satisfied," Albright said.
In his speech, Romney said the relationship had "suffered great strains."
"The president explicitly stated that his goal was to put 'daylight between the United States and Israel,' " Romney said. "And he has succeeded. This is a dangerous situation that has set back the hope of peace in the Middle East and emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran."
LaBolt would not confirm or deny reports the president had made the comment in a White House meeting, with both speakers trying instead to argue simply that the United States had remained a strong ally of Israel.
"Look, the president has spent more time talking to Prime Minister Netanyahu than any other foreign leader," LaBolt said.
If the Obama campaign is genuinely eager to engage on foreign policy, they are likely to get a chance in the coming weeks. At both the vice presidential debate this week and the town-hall style presidential debate later this month, foreign policy is expected to be discussed at length. And, in the final presidential debate, the entirety of the discussion is expected to focus on international affairs.