Will war-weary voters embrace the GOP hawkish rhetoric on Iran?... Striking foreign-policy rhetoric at Saturday’s GOP debate… Obama fires back at Romney comment on Iran… And Obama on China, Super Committee work, and hot-mic episode with Sarkozy.
*** On the warpath? Earlier this debate season, some of the Republican presidential candidates -- including Mitt Romney -- began striking dovish notes on national security. “It’s time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can, consistent with the word that comes to our generals that we can hand the country over to the … Afghan military,” Romney said at the June 13 debate in New Hampshire. “I also think we’ve learned that our troops shouldn’t go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation.” But at Saturday night’s debate on foreign policy, Romney turned much more hawkish, saying he would take military action to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. “If all else fails, if after all of the work we've done … then of course you take military action. It is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”
*** Will war-weary Americans embrace hawkish rhetoric on Iran? Romney wasn’t alone. Newt Gingrich openly advocated assassinating Iran’s nuclear scientists. “Maximum covert operations to block and disrupt the Iranian program, including taking out their scientists, including breaking up their systems, all of it covertly, all of it deniable,” he said. And Rick Santorum suggested partnering with Israel to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability. “We should be working with Israel right now to do what they did in Syria, what they did in Iraq, which is take out that nuclear capability before the next explosion we hear in Iran is a nuclear one and then the world changes.” The question is whether an increasingly war-weary public -- last week’s NBC/WSJ poll showed seven in 10 Americans agreeing with the decision to remove all U.S. forces from Iraq by December – will embrace hawkish rhetoric toward Iran.
*** More striking rhetoric: And that Iran talk wasn’t the only striking rhetoric at Saturday’s GOP debate. “[U]nder Barack Obama, he is allowing the ACLU to run the CIA. (Anwar Al-Awlaki’s family might disagree with that.) Rick Perry said all foreign aid -- even for Israel -- should start at zero. “[I]t makes sense for everyone to come in at zero and make your case [for more money].” And Romney said that re-electing Obama means that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon. “If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you elect me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon.
*** Obama fires back: At President Obama’s news conference in Hawaii, White House reporters got the president to react to that last line by Romney. “I am going to make a practice of not commenting on whatever is said in Republican debates until they've got an actual nominee. But [if] you take a look at what we've been able to accomplish in mobilizing the world community against Iran over the last three years and it shows steady, determined, firm progress in isolating the Iranian regime,” Obama said. “Now, is this an easy issue? No. Anybody who claims it is, is either politicking or doesn’t know what they're talking about.” In an earlier question, Obama didn’t take the military option off the table when it comes to Iran, but his rhetoric was much softer than Romney’s.
*** Obama on China, Super Committee work, and hot-mic episode: Also at his news conference, Obama had tougher rhetoric when it comes to China (which has been the entire theme of his trip so far). On the Super Committee’s work, he stopped short of issuing a veto threat if Congress tries to change the military-cut triggers. And on that hot-mic episode with Sarkozy, he argued that he was pushing back at France at siding with Palestinians on their bid to join UN entities. “The primary conversation I had with President Sarkozy in that meeting revolved around my significant disappointment that France had voted in favor of the Palestinians joining UNESCO, knowing full well that under our laws, that would require the United States cutting off funding to UNESCO,” he said.