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POLITICS: White House

McCain, Rice endorse Romney as commander in chief

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Politics,White House,Hayley Peterson,Politics Digest

TAMPA, Fla. -- John McCain, the Republican Party's 2008 presidential nominee, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice charged President Obama with eroding America's standing in the world, and promised that as commander in chief Mitt Romney would reverse that slide.

"The president has discouraged our friends and emboldened our enemies," the longtime senator from Arizona said in a Wednesday evening speech. "Unfortunately, for four years -- for four years -- we've drifted away from our proudest traditions of global leadership."

Rice, speaking a couple hours later, accused the Obama administration with even harsher language. "Where does America stand?" she asked. "When our friends and foes alike do not know the answer to that question, clearly and unambiguously, the world is a chaotic and dangerous place."

In similar language, both McCain and Rice said Romney could reverse the damage Obama has done with policies like his early withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and massive cuts in defense spending.

"I trust [Mitt Romney] to lead us," McCain said. "I trust him to know that if America doesn't lead, our adversaries will, and the world will grow darker, poorer and much more dangerous."

Rice promised, "Our military capability and technological advantage will be safe in Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's hands."

Both speakers acknowledged that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had created a fatigue among Americans for foreign entanglements. "I know there is a weariness, a sense that we have carried these burdens long enough," Rice said.

Indeed, the GOP convention had been mostly free of talk about the role of a president as commander in chief before Wednesday, with efforts to present Romney in a human light and attacks on Obama's economic record dominating.

And, in an earlier speech Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky got a raucous ovation when he talked about how America needed to avoid disastrous foreign adventures.

The twin speeches of Rice and McCain on Wednesday appeared to be an acknowledgement by the party that Romney was vulnerable to the charge of inexperience in foreign affairs, and in need of endorsement by two party stalwarts in that area.

Romney sought to build foreign policy credentials ahead of this week's convention with a trip to Great Britain, Poland and Israel, where he met with foreign leaders but unintentionally angered the British when he suggested that London may not have been prepared to host the Summer Olympics.

Obama had no military experience either when he took office nearly four years ago. But he has scored a number of foreign policy successes in his first term, including ordering the Navy SEALs mission that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, ending the war in Iraq and authorizing the international operation that toppled Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

McCain never mentioned those feats in his remarks on Wednesday. He instead talked about accusations that the Obama administration leaked classified information to the media to help generate positive coverage of the president.

"We can choose to follow a declining path, toward a future that is dimmer and more dangerous than our past," McCain said. "Or we can choose to reform our failing government, revitalize our ailing economy and renew the foundations of our power and leadership in the world."

Even as McCain was speaking, the Obama campaign was firing off missives questioning Romney's foreign policy credentials.

"What's not clear is how Mitt Romney would keep our country safe, confront our enemies, or handle our alliances," the campaign said. "Romney has offered a lot of reckless bluster and vague platitudes, but he's failed to outline specific national security policies."

hpeterson@washingtonexaminer.com

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