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Thursday, September 6, 2012

At Convention, Obama Surrogates Tout Foreign Policy Successes


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - One of the Obama campaign's goals during the Democratic convention is to convince voters that they are better off - or at least no worse off - than they were four years ago. On Thursday night President Obama - along with Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts - will draw on the administration's foreign policy record to make the case.

In a possible preview of the argument, Jacob Lew, the White House chief of staff, told a packed theater of international visitors to the convention that Mr. Obama had “dramatically reoriented U.S. foreign policy and restored our standing in the world.”

Mr. Lew sought to remind listeners of the challenge Mr. Obam a faced when taking office. Because of the two wars that the president inherited, he said, “we were not able to fully seize other opportunities or meet other pressing challenges.”

“Ending these wars is the prerequisite for the new era of engagement that President Obama promised when he came into office,” said Mr. Lew, who was also Mr. Obama's budget director and a deputy secretary of state under Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Making the case for the value of foreign aid, Mr. Lew said that foreign spending “enhances the security and prosperity of not only the United States, but people around the world.”

Mr. Lew's remarks echoed themes from an article this week by Mr. Kerry on the Web site of Foreign Policy magazine. Referencing what he called the “inheritance of President Obama,” he wrote that successes in Iraq and Afghanistan and against al Qaeda helped pave the way for a foreign policy that can allow the United Stat es to “approach a more comprehensive and nuanced agenda, an agenda that promotes American interests.”

Mr. Kerry pulled no punches when it came to Republicans. “Theirs is a Potemkin foreign policy of all facade and no substance,” he said.

He also criticized the Romney campaign, calling its statements on Russia and China “a waste of time when pursuing real policy issues with real consequences.” Mr. Kerry also sought to portray the administration's record on international trade as critical to the American economic recovery.

Speaking at the same event as Mr. Lew, Madeleine Albright, a secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, also made the connection. “Domestic and foreign policy are interrelated,” she said. “Never has this been truer than now.”

Ms. Albright also criticized the Romney campaign for referring to Russia as America's “No. 1 geopolitical foe,” saying that Mr. Romney's advisers were “living in a different centu ry.”

“There is a one- or two-dimensional view that the Romney people seem to have in terms of what national security is about,” she added.

When she was the nation's top diplomat, Ms. Albright was prevented from appearing at political conventions, as is the case now for Mrs. Clinton. Ms. Albright seemed to enjoy having a chance to jump into the fray.

“When I was secretary of state, I had my partisan instincts surgically removed,” she said. “They've all grown back.”