President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama hit back hard in a "60 Minutes" interview broadcast Sunday at Mitt Romney's criticisms of his handling of Syria and Iran, saying that if the Republican standard-bearer "is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so."
Obama also brushed aside talk that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressuring him to take a harder line on Iran's suspicious nuclear program — source of some of Romney's sharpest campaign-trail criticisms, reports The Ticket.
"When it comes to our national security decisions-- any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that's out there," the president said.
"Now I feel an obligation -- not pressure but obligation -- to make sure that we're in close consultation with the Israelis-- on these issues, because it affects them deeply," Obama said. "They're one of our closest allies in the region. And we've got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel's existence."
Romney has accused Obama of not doing enough to curb Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says is a civilian energy program but America and its allies say is an effort to develop the ability to build a nuclear weapon. He has also charged that the president has done too little to help rebels against Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad topple his regime as the civil war there has left perhaps as many as 20,000 dead.
Asked about those criticisms, Obama bristled.
"Let's see what I've done since I came into office: I said I'd end the war in Iraq. I did. I said that we'd go after Al Qaeda. They've been decimated in the FATA," he said, referring to Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, along the remote border with Afghanistan. "That we'd go after bin Laden. He's gone. So I've executed on my foreign policy. And it's one that the American people largely agree with."
"So if Governor Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so," Obama said. That remark echoed suggestions from some of the president's advisers that Romney relies on so-called "neoconservative" advisers like those who championed the war in Iraq under President George W. Bush.
The interview — and a companion question-and-answer session with Romney — ran as Obama was poised to head to New York on Monday for the annual U.N. General Assembly, a brief pirouette on the world stage before he heads back out on the campaign trail. He will address the U.N. on Tuesday — exactly six weeks before Election Day — and then head out to the pivotal battleground of Ohio a day later.
The president won't hold separate meetings with any key world leaders, citing scheduling concerns. But Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have found time to sit down Monday with the ladies of "The View" to tape an interview.