But “not one candidate” offered legitimate responses to questions, says Claudia Kennedy, a retired Lieutenant General (Army) residing in Hilton Head.
The 90-minute debate was held at Spartanburg’s Wofford College. Participating candidates were Rep. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul, Gov. Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
“We heard a lot of bold statements from the Republican candidates for president (last night), but what we didn’t hear from a single candidate…was an approach that would improve on President Obama’s successful efforts in every aspect of foreign policy and national security,” Lt. Gen. Kennedy said.
“Not one candidate on the stage tonight offered an approach to foreign policy that is as strong or consistent as Pres. Obama’s.”
The policy statements issued last night ranged from withholding foreign aid to allies (Perry) to “taking out” scientists in Iran (Gingrich) – even approval of torture (Bachmann and Cain).
Lt. Gen. Kennedy’s strongest criticism was of Romney, “who has taken both or all sides of every major foreign policy issue we have faced over the past decade,” she said, offering examples of the former Massachusetts governor’s consistent changes in stance on critical issues.
“Mitt Romney opposed the effort to depose Gaddafi, and then praised it when it occurred. He has taken both sides on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and both sides on timetables. While Mitt Romney once questioned the conduct of the war in Iraq, he now wants to keep American troops there indefinitely without defining a mission. And while Mitt Romney has been saber rattling on Iran, he has said he’d have to consult with his lawyers about whether or not to take action against Iran.”
These inconsistencies don’t indicate indecision alone, Lt. Gen. Kennedy says. It also appears Romney sometimes switches to whatever stance is popular after-the-fact.
“Romney has repeatedly changed his positions on foreign policy to suit his own political ends – an affliction which I understand extends to his approach to domestic issues as well. A Commander-in-Chief often gets only one chance to make the right decision on issues of foreign policy and national security and Mitt Romney has shown time and again he doesn’t have the strength of his convictions to make the right call.”
Whichever candidate finally wins the nomination won’t be able to challenge his or her opponent on these topics in the General Election next year, she says.
“Pres. Obama has secured our country, taken out terrorist leaders including Bin Laden, led the international coalition which toppled Gaddafi, has ended the war in Iraq, is responsibly managing the war in Afghanistan, led an international coalition to impose the most stringent regime of sanctions that Iran has ever faced and has done all this while restoring our standing in the world.”
Lt. Gen. Kennedy served 31 years in the U.S. Army, retiring in June 2000. She was on the slate of potential vice presidential candidates in 2008, and in 2010 was appointed chairwoman of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.
The first woman in the Army to rise to three-star general, she served in the roles of senior intelligence officer for the U.S. Forces Command and Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence. Kennedy’s awards include the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and four Legions of Merits decorations.
Another South Carolina debate of Republican candidates is scheduled for January 16 in Myrtle Beach, just five days before the January 21 primary election in the state.