A day after he and many fellow Republicans showed restrained reaction to the White House's response to the deadly attacks against American diplomats in Libya, Sen. John McCain on Thursday ripped into President Obama for “feckless foreign policy” he said is harming Middle East relations.
“What this is all about is American weakness and the president’s inability to lead,” he told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie.
McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was a close friend with Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya who was killed in an attack against the American outpost in Benghazi.
“A genuine American hero was Chris Stevens,” said McCain, who said he was with the ambassador this summer on Libya’s election day that resulted in a new government.
“They voted for a moderate government, not an Islam government. The majority of Libyan people are not the kind of people who attacked the American embassy yesterday,” McCain said.
But the Arizona Republican, who lost the presidential race to Obama in 2008, suggested ongoing violence in the region – specifically Iraq, Iran and Syria – stems from Obama’s inefficient foreign policy.
“There is a belief in the Middle East that the United States is weak and withdrawing, and that’s why you’re seeing various countries and their leaders reacting,” he said. “They have to live in the neighborhood and they believe the United State is leaving and this leadership is in a vacuum.”
Just a day earlier, on Wednesday, McCain and other Republicans refrained from criticizing the White House and even joined Democrats in condemning the deadly attacks against the U.S. consulate.
“There will be plenty of time to talk about who said what and did what, but the fact is, this was a planned attack by radical extremists and it’s a great tragedy,” McCain said on the Senate floor.
Republicans also shied away from their party’s presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who came under fire for his pointed criticism of the Obama administration’s response to the violence. Many suggested Romney’s remarks appeared opportunistic and were issued too early, before the news about Stevens had emerged.