GOP candidates keep flailing away at Obama on foreign policy

TAPPER: Let's turn now to Afghanistan, where you're sitting right now. The big news is that Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has confirmed that the United States, the Afghan government, are in three-way talks with the Taliban. Are those talks a mistake?

MCCAIN: No, I think it's important to have talks wherever you can, but I also think that it's important to remember that we have to have an outcome on the battlefield that would motivate a successful conclusion to those talks, and there's also the perception here that we are leaving, which then, of course, is a disincentive to successful conclusion of the talks.

I think it's very important that we have a strategic agreement with Afghanistan for a long-term U.S. presence here. I think that's the best way to bring about a peaceful solution, is to make sure that we are here to stay, to support the Afghan government and people, and we will supply that assistance for as long as is necessary.

TAPPER: The reason I ask, sir, is Mitt Romney says there should be absolutely no negotiation with the Taliban, whereas I've heard you say in the past, you make peace with your enemies, and that's who you need to negotiate with. So on this issue, not the withdrawal date — I understand you guys are in congress on that — but on this issue of whether or not there should be any negotiating with the Taliban you and Mitt Romney disagree.

MCCAIN: Well, I haven't had a conversation with him about it, but I'm sure that Mitt Romney would like to have peaceful solution. But he has a realistic approach. When the president of the United States keeps withdrawing — announcing withdrawal dates then as one of the Taliban once said to his captor, an American, said, "You've got the watches, we've got the time."

McCain isn't the first Romney supporter to essentially inform his candidate (on national television as well) that his position that we shouldn't negotiate with the Taliban doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Last year the Washington Post's David Ignatius busted Romney after a debate for his criticism of the Obama administration on the topic, when in fact Romney's co-chair for Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, James Shinn, wrote a report in 2010 arguing that “peace negotiations would obviously be desirable if they could succeed” and that such talks are worth it even if they fail, because the risks of participation are greater for the Taliban than for the U.S.

Meanwhile, remember Newt Gingrich? Yesterday while campaigning in Oklahoma, he said defeating Obama at the November polls is a matter of urgent national security because he is the "most dangerous president in modern American history."

Never one to pass up a chance at hyperbole, Gingrich went on to say that "the president wants to unilaterally weaken the United States, he wants to cut the aid to Israel for its anti-ballistic missile defense, he refuses to take Iran seriously. We are in a world that is very dangerous. And I say this to those of you who represent the next generation because you’re going to bear the consequences.”

There's surely an audience of hardcore conservatives and Obama-haters who might buy this rhetoric, and Gingrich is betting that those are the ones who are voting in these GOP primaries. Because it's hard to see this line of attack being used by a Republican in a one-on-one debate against Obama this fall, unless he's in serious trouble of losing the election.

When the GOP presidential debate drama resumes tomorrow night in Arizona, prepare to hear what you've always heard during these forums — a lot of Barack Obama bashing.

With the country still in one of its weakest positions economically in decades (though there have been incremental improvements in recent months), Obama should be vulnerable this election year, unless the Republicans nominate a general election candidate who is unacceptable to the masses.

But while there are definitely issues to criticize on foreign policy, most of the passionate disagreements on that front come from fellow Democrats, unhappy that Obama's stance on terrorism is too close for comfort to the policies of one George W. Bush.

Which is why Mitt Romney's criticism of Obama for being willing to negoiate with the Taliban seems so phony. One of Romney's biggest supporters in Congress, Arizona's John McCain, told ABC's Jake Tapper on Sunday morning's This Week program that he agreed with Obama that negotiations are important.

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