With anti-American protests continuing to rage overseas, millions people in the U.S. and abroad await to hear how President Barack Obama will defend his foreign policy choices over the last four years against attacks recent from domestic political adversaries and hostile foreign entities.
The president has come under increasing attack in recent weeks after the U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other consulate staffers in Benghazi were killed by rioters angered over an anti-Islam film produced in the U.S.
The harshest rebukes have come from Congressional Republicans and their presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who called the Obama administration's initial handling of attacks on the Cairo and Benghazi embassy and consulate as "disgraceful."
"On the eve of his United Nations address, President Obama's foreign policy is in disarray," Romney campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul said in an email to supporters on Monday.
"As anti-American protests rage in the Middle East and Iran moves closer toward nuclear weapons capability, President Obama seems more focused on winning a second term than rebuilding America's strength and position in the world," Saul added.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also criticized the president's recent decision not to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN conference.
"For President Obama to indicate that Israel is on par with other allies in the region is very troubling," Cantor said in a call hosted by the Romney campaign on Monday. He referred to remarks the president made Sunday night on 60 Minutes in which he said Israel was "one of" America's closest allies in the Middle East.
Cantor added the president's unwillingness to meet with Netanyahu this week "speaks volumes to the lack of seriousness that the president puts on the situation" in Muslim-majority countries at this time.
"This is a time of serious consequence around the world," Cantor concluded. Obama's actions show a "lack of willingness to lead in times of struggle."
State Department officials in New York for the annual UN meeting, without directly referring to the political rhetoric ahead of the president's speech, sought to highlight continued engagement with Muslim-majority countries ahead of Obama's speech Tuesday.
Two senior State Department officials, speaking to reporters in New York Monday afternoon, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's meetings today with leaders from Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan underscored underscored the positive relations with countries currently witnessing anti-American protests.
The violence, present in all three countries, was discussed in meetings between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Libyan President of the Governing National Council Mohamed Yousef el-Magariaf, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
All three countries eschewed the violence and pledged to work with the United States to increase security internally and with border nations going forward, the officials said.
But regardless of progress made in these one-on-one meetings, all eyes will be trained on the very public message President Obama gives his nation and the world tomorrow on the floor of the United Nations.
In a rather ironic scheduling mistake - or perhaps meant as a stark juxtaposition of the two men's foreign policies - Romney will speak across town at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting during the same time slot as the president's floor speech.
Needless to say, what both men say will become the most easily cite-able example of the core of their foreign policy going into the last months before the presidential debates and November general election.
by Lauren McGaughy
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