Backers of President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney are trading barbs over how America's foreign policy should be shaped even as the candidates largely focus on economic issues.
Romney surrogates charge Obama with withdrawing Washington from global leadership, selling out allies and putting politics before national security. Obama surrogates say it is difficult to even criticize Romney's ideas because he has yet to do much more than criticize the president.
"We are at a serious part of the campaign and Mr. Romney hasn't delivered answers to the critical questions," former Army Gen. Wesley Clark told reporters Thursday on a conference call. "If Romney doesn't tell us what he will do to keep America safe, the American people are going to quickly conclude that he doesn't know how."
Asked later whether he believes the businessman-turned Massachusetts governor-turned Olympics savior-turned presidential candidate is qualified to be president, Clark demurred. That's up to the American people, the former U.S. European Command chief said.
Mark Jacobson, a former NATO official in Kabul, slammed Romney's recent comment that he would "do the opposite" of Obama when asked about U.S.-Israel relations.
"I find it perplexing when you look at Romney's call to do the opposite of every aspect of President Obama's foreign policy," says Jacobson. "I worry about a potential commander-in-chief who can't grasp the complexities of modern warfare."
Romney surrogates, like former State Department official Richard Williamson, say Obama makes war policies through a lens of domestic politics.
Romney has been "critical of the president, in his view, being guided more by political consideration than facts on the ground," Williamson said during a Wednesday forum in Washington, "and he's been concerned that our military leadership has not been in support."
On Israel, Romney backers believe Obama has not done enough to stop Iran nuclear program, and essentially has sold out America's longtime closest Middle East ally.
"You treat your friends not only with military support, which the Obama administration has done quite a bit, as have previous administrations," Williamson says. "But you try to get...political cooperation. And that has not existed [under Obama]."
Romney supporters, like the American Enterprise Institute's Danielle Pletka, don't hide the disgust they feel for what they say is Moscow's steamrolling of Obama and his administration.
Pletka says Romney would be much tougher on Russia than Obama, who sought with mixed results at best to "re-set" relations. "We now have a Russia that, despite its relative lack of influence," Pletka says, "seems able to waylay the Obama administration."
-- Rebekah Metzler contributed.
John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.