In a election season dominated by domestic economic issues, foreign policy took center stage for the first time on the last night of the Democratic National Convention, as the president and other senior officials touted the administration's successes abroad in the last four years.
"In a world of new threats and new challenges, you can choose leadership that has been tested and proven," President Barack Obama said during his speech to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. on Thursday night.
Both the president's campaign and that of his Republican challenger Mitt Romney have rarely made mention to foreign policy issues currently facing the nation. Gallup polls showed the economy remains the number one issue for two-thirds of Americans this year.
But, while Obama for America staff have referenced the issue more frequently - highlighting the end of the Iraq war, engagement in Asia and the killing of Osama bin Laden - the Romney campaign has largely left the issue off the table.
Romney staff has been even more reluctant to bring up their candidate's foreign policy stances after the former Massachusetts governor showed his lack of experience during a trip abroad this year.
On Thursday, the president made mention of this trip, in which Romney criticized the British government for "disconcerting" reports of a lack of security personnel ahead of the London Games. He also made mention of confusing remarks made by the Romney campaign on the threat of Russia today.
"My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy. But from all that we've seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly," Obama said Thursday night.
"After all, you don't call Russia our number-one enemy - not al Qaeda - Russia - unless you're still stuck in a Cold War mind warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can't visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally," he added.
Former ambassador to India Timothy Roemer echoed this sentiment at a National Democratic Institute event in Charlotte on Thursday.
"If you can't handle the easy issues with our close allies - Great Britain and the Olympic games - how are you going to handle war?" he asked the assembled crowd of delegates and domestic and foreign officials.
"How are you going to handle peace? How are you going to handle bringing out troops home?" Roemer added.
Before the president's speech Thursday, the Romney campaign issued a statement saying Obama's policies have "diminished American influence abroad and compromised our interests and values."
"President Obama's failure on the economy has been so severe that it has overshadowed his manifold failures on foreign policy and national security," the email from policy director Lanhee Chen added.
The Romney campaign also released the text of a Washington Times op-ed written by former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice, James A. Baker, George P. Shultz and Henry A. Kissinger praising Romney for "his strong and mature vision of American leadership."
But pundits agreed the full-throated defense of Obama's foreign policy choices during Thursday's speeches was one of the strongest parts of the convention's final day, especially when juxtaposed with Romney's failure to mention even the war in Afghanistan during his acceptance speech a week earlier.
"No nominee for president should ever fail in the midst of a war to pay tribute to our troops overseas in his acceptance speech," Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., said during his speech Thursday, which was mostly focused on foreign policy issues.
"Mitt Romney was talking about America. They are on the front lines every day defending America, and they deserve our thanks," he added.
Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former presidential candidate, also blasted Romney on his inability to form a sound policy platform on Afghanistan.
"It isn't fair to say Mitt Romney doesn't have a position on Afghanistan. He has every position," Kerry said, quipping, "Mr. Romney, here's a little advice: Before you debate Barack Obama on foreign policy, you better finish the debate with yourself."
But the foreign policy agenda for the Democrats was not without its problems this year. On Thursday, after repeated attacks from the Romney camp on the president's support for Israel, the Democrats changed the party platform last minute to include an acknowledgment of Jerusalem as the country's capital.
White House insiders said the change came at the direct urging of the president, who was eager to reassure America's closest ally in the Middle East he was as strongly behind Israeli security as the Romney campaign claimed to be.
"The platform is being amended to maintain consistency with the personal views expressed by the President and in the Democratic Party platform in 2008. Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel," DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement, adding the details of the city remain a final status issue.
However, the move came in direct opposition to Democratic delegates, who booed it on the floor of the Time Warner Arena in Charlotte on Wednesday. Ignoring their response, DNC Chairman and Los Angeles mayor Anthony Villaraigosa said the vote to change the platform passed by a two-thirds majority.
The floor conflict was an unusual show of differing views during the convention season, most often the only time political parties can claim total cohesion.
But after the change, Democrats were eager to forget the issue and shift the attention back to their opponent's shortcomings and their president's strengths.
"Bravery resides in the heart of Barack Obama, and time and time again I witnessed him summon it. This man has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart, and a spine of steel," Biden said in his speech Thursday.
"And because of all the actions he took, because of the calls he made, because of the determination of American workers and the unparalleled bravery of our Special Forces, we can now proudly say what you've heard me say the last six months: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive!"
by RTT Staff Writer
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