In U.S. politics, the Republican presidential contenders for 2012 continue to hammer away at President Barack Obama’s economic record. But some of the Republican candidates are also taking shots at the president’s foreign policy agenda.
The latest salvo on foreign policy came from former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.
Pawlenty told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that the Obama administration was slow to embrace democracy activists in Iran and slow to offer encouragement to the democracy movements that makeup the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.
Pawlenty also criticized the president’s approach to the Middle East peace process involving Israel and the Palestinians.
“The president really does not have a policy toward the peace process. He has an attitude. And let us be frank about what that attitude is. He thinks Israel is the problem and he thinks the answer is always more pressure on Israel. I reject that anti-Israel attitude. I reject it because Israel is a close and reliable democratic ally.”
But Pawlenty also offered thinly veiled criticism of some of his fellow Republican presidential contenders who would like to see a quicker drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
“What is wrong is for the Republican Party to shrink from the challenges of American leadership in the world. America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment and withdrawal. It does not need a second one,” he said.
Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman has talked about quickening the pace of the U.S. troop withdrawal, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney warned against future nation-building efforts at a recent Republican candidates’ debate.
Pawlenty is hoping to reignite some enthusiasm for his campaign after a recent poll in the early contest state of Iowa showed him well down the list of preferred Republican contenders.
Near the top of that list was Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who officially joined the presidential race on Monday.
“Together we can make a better America if we stick together. Together we can bring the promise of the future. Together we can! Together we will!,” she said.
Bachmann is running neck and neck in Iowa with the national Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney, who has been campaigning in New Hampshire and focusing on the economy.
“President Obama had said that if he had not turned the economy around in three years that it was a one-term proposition. Well he is absolutely right,” Romney said.
The pace of the Republican nomination battle is likely to intensify in the next few months even as two other potential contenders are deciding whether to the join the field -Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.