|Obama defends foreign policy record against Republicans|
|Thursday, 24 May 2012 08:03|
President Barack Obama on Wednesday staunchly defended his foreign policy record against Republican election-year criticism that he has overseen a decline in American power in the world.
Addressing graduates of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Obama touted his decisions to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq, wind down the war in Afghanistan and order the raid that killed Osama bin Laden - a record his campaign hopes will temper voter discontent about a still fragile economy.
"For a decade, we have labored under the dark cloud of war. Now, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The end of these wars will shape your service and it will make our military stronger," he told the class of 1,073 uniformed cadets, including 234 women, on the military school's football field.
Mitt Romney, Obama's presumptive challenger in the November 6 election, has accused the Democratic president of weakening America on the world stage, calling last year's exit from Iraq premature and the timeline to leave Afghanistan ill-conceived.
Last weekend at a NATO summit in Chicago, Obama acknowledged there were risks in withdrawing U.S. and allied forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
But at the Air Force Academy he pushed back against Romney's charge that America had lost ground under his leadership.
"Let's start by putting aside the tired notion that says our influence has waned, that America is in decline. We've heard that talk before," he said, declaring that his policies were seeding the way to a new "American Century" - an expression Romney has used to describe his own foreign policy vision.
Obama's speech came at the start of a three-state political tour focused on raising funds for his re-election campaign.
His two-day excursion - spanning Colorado, California and Iowa - includes a series of fundraisers set to generate more than $3 million, plus his third big campaign rally of the 2012 season, planned for Des Moines on Thursday.
Speaking at a downtown Denver hotel after leaving Colorado Springs, Obama turned his focus to Romney's record as a private equity executive, saying the former Massachusetts governor had "drawn the wrong lessons" from his time at Bain Capital.
"What Governor Romney doesn't seem to get is that a healthy economy doesn't just mean a few folks maximizing their profits through massive layoffs or busting unions," Obama said. "Why is he running around with the same bad ideas that brought our economy to collapse this last time out?"
Obama, whose chances of re-election are closely tied to what happens with the U.S. economy, also drew attention to a report showing federal spending has grown slowly under his watch and under other Democrats, rising faster in past Republican administrations.
"I don't know how they've been bamboozling folks into thinking that they are the responsible, fiscally disciplined party," he said of Republicans. "They run up these wild debts and then, when we take over we've got to clean it up."
He returned to the foreign policy theme at a late Wednesday fundraiser in Redwood City, California - near Palo Alto - with a sharper aim at Romney than on display at the Air Force Academy.
"My opponent ... said it was "tragic" to end the war in Iraq, and won't set a timeline for ending the war in Afghanistan. I have set a timeline. Our coalition partners and the Afghans agree with me. I intend to keep it," Obama said. "After a decade of war that's cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, the nation we need to build is our own."
On Thursday, Obama is due to hold another fundraiser in San Jose, California, then head to Iowa to speak about clean energy at a wind turbine blade manufacturer before the campaign rally at the state fairgrounds in Des Moines.