But even Romney, a leading contender, has a chink or two in his foreign policy armor. In a foreign policy speech this month, he declared Obama's foreign policies "feckless" and said that as president, "I will devote myself to an American Century." He pledged to make full use of soft power -- diplomacy and leadership within alliances and organizations like the United Nations. Nine days later, however, he said Americans should stop providing so much foreign aid and let the Chinese handle it. As The Washington Post editorial board noted dryly, "It turned out to be a short century."
Romney is also a leading purveyor, though not the only one, of the idea that Obama is an apologist for America. "I will never, ever apologize for America," says the former Massachusetts governor, whose campaign book is called No Apology. Yet the notion that Obama tours the world making apologies has been declared false by Politifact and a four-Pinocchio whopper by The Washington Post's Fact Checker.
Jon Huntsman, who was Obama's ambassador to China until April, is as harsh as his rivals on his former boss. "President Obama's policies have weakened America, and thus diminished America's presence on the global stage," he said in his own foreign policy speech this month. His solution: "End nation-building, engage our allies, and fix our core. This is how we will fight the enemy we have, and renew American exceptionalism." Yet how, exactly, is this different from what Obama is trying to do?
Obama has taken enormous incoming for saying that pre-1967 borders with land swaps should be the foundation for Mideast peace talks. The entire GOP field has essentially accused Obama of abandoning Israel; Rick Perry has called his policies "naïve and arrogant, misguided and dangerous." Yet Obama recently intervened to help rescue six Israelis during an attack on their embassy in Cairo and opposed the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Obama deserved a "badge of honor" for his stand at the U.N. and told NBC's "Meet the Press" that Obama is as much a friend to Israel as Bush and other presidents.
Libya has proven particularly unsettling to the field. Bachmann and Huntsman opposed intervention while Newt Gingrich and Romney have supported, opposed and everything in between. (Whatever Obama was doing at any given time, they disagreed.) Now the mission is not only a success, it is a validation of Obama's strategy of targeted, limited engagement in partnership with allies.
When it comes to Obama's economic record, the GOP candidates are determined to make sure Americans judge him by the cold, hard realities of unemployment, foreclosures and falling income. But in looking at him as commander in chief and leader of the free world, they would prefer that people ignore what's been going on in the real world. It brings to mind the old Marx Brothers joke: "Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"