WASHINGTON (JTA) – Republican candidates addressing AIPAC’s policy conference focused their addresses on what they said were the Obama administration’s failures to head off a nuclear Iran.
Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor; Rick Santorum the former Pennsylvania senator; and Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House of Representatives speaker, each spoke Tuesday morning to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual conference.
They depicted Obama as reluctant to use sanctions and as naïve in his dealings with the Islamic Republic.
“I will bring the current policy of procrastination to an end,” said Romney, who said Obama opposed congressional sanctions approved last year.
The White House backed and helped shape the sanctions, but, like its predecessors, sought presidential waivers as a means of preserving executive branch prerogatives.
Santorum said differences between the U.S. and Israel over what should trigger a strike on Iran was emboldening that regime.
“There is a clear and unfortunate and tragic disconnect between how the leaders of Israel and of the United States view the exigency of this situation,” he said.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who opened Tuesday’s proceedings with the traditional endorsement of a senator of AIPAC’s legislative package, said such attacks on Obama undermined Israel’s cause.
“We do a disservice to the security of our nation and of Israel if we sit calm to those who would use Israel to divide us for partisan gain,” he said.
Obama, at a news conference later, accused the candidates of treating the prospect of war with “casualness.“
“Those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities, they’re not commander in chief,” he said. “When I see the casuallness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs.”
Romney and Gingrich, who were campaigning in the Super Tuesday primaries across 10 states, addressed the conference via satellite. Santorum came in person, a fact he noted at the start of his address. AIPAC did not invite Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who has advocated against U.S. aid to Israel.