Countering conventional wisdom that President Obama's foreign policy successes bolster the president's credentials ahead of the 2012 election, Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday that the Republican presidential candidates must be more forceful in challenging his decisions.
"To the Republican Party: national security matters, step up on it. ... We've got a jobs problem. We've got a national security problem that is growing by the day," Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News Sunday."
Graham credited the president with killing Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden and supporting the overthrow (and death) of Libya's Muammar Qaddafi, but, by Graham's account, the president has failed by allowing Tehran to get a leg up in Iraq and get that much closer to nuclear weapons.
Obama has thrown Israel "under the bus," Graham said; he has blown his policy on the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and has made a politically expedient decision to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 2012, before the election.
Obama's decisions are being "run out of Chicago, not Washington," Graham said.
"At the end of the day these are decisions President Obama has made. I think they are strategically unsound and I think we'll need to step up and challenge him," he said.
The senator who's been deeply involved in U.S. foreign policy over the last 10 years said "not being able to close the deal in Iraq" is a grave strategic error. Graham said leaving Iraq altogether after the top U.S. military commander there warned that 15,000-18,000 troops should remain to "secure the gains we fought for" is "pretty disappointing."
"He ended Iraq poorly, fumbled the ball inside of the 10. I hope I'm wrong about what happens in Iraq, but they're dancing in the streets in Tehran," Graham told "Fox News Sunday."
But Obama's pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq is not only a campaign promise kept by this president, it is also the fulfillment of the Bush administration's commitment to withdrawing troops by the end of 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday.
Speaking from Uzbekistan, her latest stop on a multinational trip, Clinton said the president also "fulfilled the commitment requested by the Iraqis."
"Iraq is a sovereign independent nation, with whom we have very good relations and we expect to have continuing strong security relationship for many years to come," Clinton told "Fox News Sunday."
Clinton disputed charges that the U.S. is bailing on Iraq at a time when its ability to secure its own borders is questionable and deflect Iran's influence.
"The point of our involvement in Iraq, stated over and over again by people on both sides of the aisle, was to create the opportunities for the Iraqis to have their own future without the oppression of a dictator like Saddam Hussein
"Now you can't on the one hand say you're all for democracy and sovereignty and independence where people get to make their own choices, and then on the other hand say when a choice is made ... that that somehow is not appropriate," she said.
Clinton added that over the last two and half years, Obama has demonstrated "smart" leadership.
"He was the one who brought bin Laden finally down. He was the one who put together a coalition that eventually removed Qaddafi. So, I think it's important that in this very complex, dangerous world, we have somebody in the White House who understands that America has to lead," she said.
Graham said Obama also made it more difficult for U.S. forces in Afghanistan to do their job because of his pledge to "pull all the surge forces out by next September before his election."
"If he had given General (John) Allen the chance to finish the job in Afghanistan, and not shorten the fighting season for political reasons, I would have stood by him."
Graham said the president does deserve credit for listening to Clinton on getting into Libya, but deserves criticism for letting Qaddafi "off the ropes" with his strategy.
"Here's the big mistake from leading from behind, when you take American air power off the table, NATO is a much weaker force. ... If you go to war, go to win, don't lead from behind," he said.
Sending a warning to Republicans, Graham added that they better not try to co-opt Obama's foreign policy strategy.
"If I hear a Republican nominee for president embrace 'leading from behind' they will have a very difficult time in South Carolina," Graham said.