WASHINGTON (AP) — The daring nighttime raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan draws a sharp contrast between President Barack Obama and a field of potential Republican challengers who have comparatively scant foreign policy experience.

That field includes at least six current or former governors, and three current or former House members. The Senate, an incubator for international affairs expertise, doesn’t have a single member running for president, although one former senator has taken steps toward a run.

The stunning news of bin Laden’s death has temporarily focused attention on foreign policy over domestic issues, and highlighted the lack of international experience in the prospective GOP field compared with the president, a Democrat who has spent more than two years overseeing two wars and, more recently, military action in Libya.

None of the Republicans weighing candidacies is a foreign policy heavyweight, and all are working to boost their credentials by traveling to distant lands and weighing in on overseas matters.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, seen within the GOP as a credible voice on fiscal issues, bluntly acknowledged earlier this week to reporters that he was “probably not” ready to debate Obama on foreign policy. He was saying publicly about himself what other Republicans say privately about the entire field.

A handful of likely contenders planning to attend a GOP debate Thursday in South Carolina are likely to get at least one question dealing with national security, diplomatic affairs or bin Laden’s death. Continued criticism of Obama’s Libya policies is expected. And the dramatic killing of the al-Qaida leader may force the White House hopefuls to sharpen their international talking points and proposals sooner rather than later.

Bin Laden’s death is likely to “increase calls for us to leave Afghanistan and cut off aid to Pakistan,” Republican consultant John Feehery said.

Foreign policy plays a big role in every presidential election, even if domestic issues usually dominate.

Americans typically say they want a president with a solid international resume, but they don’t always vote that way.

With few exceptions, governors have little or no meaningful foreign policy experience. Yet since 1976, three governors (Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton) have defeated incumbent presidents. And Texas Gov. George W. Bush defeated a vice president. Obama himself had thin foreign policy credentials when he defeated Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam war hero who was heavily involved in national security matters for years.

Among this crop of Republicans weighing candidacies, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman may have the most immediate and concentrated foreign experience, having just finished his stint as U.S. ambassador to China. Huntsman was a young Mormon missionary to Taiwan, and he speaks Mandarin Chinese. He also has served as U.S. ambassador to Singapore and U.S. trade ambassador.

Conversely, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is in her third term, may have the most modest international experience of those weighing bids. She has traveled to Iraq and has been a member of the House Intelligence Committee since January.

A look at how others stack up:

–Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist, traveled to more than 30 countries as a businessman, Olympics official and politician.

Recently, he has said that Obama “has been unable to construct a foreign policy” because of his “fundamental disbelief in American exceptionalism.” America is seen as weak, Romney said, because “we’re following the French into Libya” to support those rebelling against Moammar Gadhafi.

–Tim Pawlenty made trade missions and troop visits as Minnesota governor to Iraq, India, China, Brazil, Chile, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Germany, Israel, Kosovo, Kuwait, Poland, Spain and other places.

He was among the first to call for a no-fly zone to protect Libya’s rebels from Gadhafi’s forces. And he criticized Obama for taking almost two more weeks to take that step.

–Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker best known for his interest in domestic issues such as tax policy and health care, sits on the Council on Foreign Relations’ terrorism task force, and teaches at the National Defense University.

He calls for a muscular approach to combating terrorism. But he was widely mocked recently for an about-face on Libyan policy. First he said he would “exercise a no-fly zone” and get rid of Gadhafi. Two weeks later, he said: “I would not have intervened. … I would not have used American and European forces.”

–Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and 2008 Iowa caucus winner, has traveled extensively, including numerous trips to Israel.

He was criticized in 2007 for saying that, as president, he would strike at terrorists inside Pakistan with or without permission from that country’s leaders. It looks rather prescient in light of this week’s events; Obama didn’t notify Pakistan before authorizing the raid that killed bin Laden.

–Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, spent much of his Capitol Hill career serving on committees covering agriculture, banking, housing and urban affairs, and other domestic matters.

Lately, he has accused Obama of “dithering” in Libya and creating a “morass” because he let the international community take the lead in aiding Gadhafi’s opponents.

–Sarah Palin, the 2008 vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor, was widely ridiculed for suggesting she had foreign policy credentials because “you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.”

She has worked to expand her foreign experience, including trips to Iraq, India and Israel.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (21)
  1. Cryin' John Boehner says:

    Not to mention a leadership void, a trust void, a compassion void, a reality void…….

    1. Jim says:

      And tell me about all of the foreign policy experience, leadership experience, trust and true compassion Barack Hussein Obama had before running for the Presidency? He could talk the talk, but he certainly hasn’t been able to walk the walk! Bowing to a foreign leader, apologizing for the US to foreign leaders, putting this country in more debt than all of the President’s of this country that proceeded him.

      He must make you very proud to be a liberal.

      1. Tom says:


        Was Obama handed a budget surplus or a budget deficit when he took office?

        What president was handed a budget surplus when he took office in 2000? And quickly turned it into a budget deficit.

        I am a proud liberal. I would rather be a liberla than a conservative anyday. Liberals live in reality and conservatives live in fantasy!

        And so far Obama has based his decidions based a reall intelligence and he hasn’t tried to twist intelligence to fit his “view” like Bush-Cheney did with Iraq.

        1. Matt says:

          This is a pretty short sided comment Tom, the budget surplus that Bush inherited was based on a growing economy from the stock market bubble that popped in March 2000. Without that bubble there was no surplus. I’m not letting Bush off the hook, he was a poor president at best, but NO where as poor as Obama has been in taking the national debt from $10T to $14T in two years, more than Bush did in 8.

          I’m glad your a liberal and proud of it, but the ones living la la land tend to live on your side of the fence. Case in point: The liberals calling a $50M cut to the $3.7T national budget draconian?

          1. Tom says:


            I will not deny that Obama did spend money when he came into office. But you have too ask yourself that if he didn’t spend any money from keeping the economy going into the toilet where would we be? The Republicans didn’t want too anything and wanted the economy too heal on its own. Now if we did things the way they wanted to where would be? But if McCain and Palin had won the election would the Republicans be talking about the deficit and spending? I doubt it.

            1. Tom C. says:

              So spending more money led to a boom, which then led to a recession, so Bush spent more money, which led to another housing boom, and then a worse recession, so Obama thus should spend more? You wrongly assume that spending causes economic growth. It does not.. Every dime the government spends comes from 1 of 3 places. 1. taxes. 2. loans from overseas 3. printing money. None of that creates wealth, it only transfers it. Loans create long term problems, and printing money leads to the business cycle and inflation. Taxes simply take money from the private sector and give it to the public sector. any jobs created are simply taken from private industries that could have created more efficient jobs. There is no net increase caused by the government, which is why unemployment is still so high. The policies don’t work.

              Above all WE DONT HAVE THE MONEY OBAMA SPENT. Period. He is only making things far worse for the future, just as Bush did with his spending. I share your same first name, but not your economic philosophy. If the economy was left to heal on its own (which Republicans did not advocate, they advocated corporatism and bailouts just like everyone else. Remember when Bush said abandon the free market to save it?) then we would be much better off. In 1921, there was a depression that preceded the Great depression. Nothing was done, and the economy recovered within a year. Sadly, the government under Hoover did not follow such advice. Obama is just another Hoover/FDR. NOT what we need.

      2. Born Liberal ... Die with Love for Mankind says:

        Damn right … Obama can also complete sentences. He did in 2 years what Bush couldn’t do … Mission Accomplished.

      3. me says:

        Your foreign policy shortcomings are showing. That “bow” as you refer to is protocol and President Obama was not the first to do it. Ever hear of a guy called Bush? He was the last guy before Obama took office to do that bow.

        1. Tom says:


          The majority of conservatives only choose too see what they want to see.

  2. JB says:

    Liek our current Governor has a leadership void? Why no comments as negative on now Governor Dayton when he was running? Appears this “News” organization is politically motivated.

  3. DJ says:

    The current slate of Republican hopefuls have to look no further than our current administration as a living example of a sitting president with no prior foreign policy experience. It really makes this “news” piece totally pointless and totally hypocritical.

    1. Matt says:

      DJ, your dead on I was going to post the same thing. Of the listed GOP hopefuls, they all are at least on par if not more experienced than Obama was when he was running and McCain was arguably one of the most knowledgeable on foreign policy.

      The bottom line is it’s not that big of a deal, I would much rather have a president who focuses and fixes the gigantic issues in the US than focus on foreign policy.

      On a side note, Bush’s and Obama’s foreign policy are almost exactly the same, but good luck finding a liberal who hated Bush or a war hawk republican to admit it.

  4. TF says:

    What a horribly bias article, Obama had ZERO foreign policy experience and they failed to mention Ron Paul who won the last two GOP straw polls and has a great stance on foreign policy issues, stay out of it.

    I guess facts shouldn’t get in the way of a good bias article from a lefty news source.

    1. Tom says:


      And how far do you think Ron Paul is going too get?

  5. Hmm says:

    Obama didn’t have experience when he ran either. Doesn’t really matter with all the advisors and military leadership you can lean on. However, I don’t think the republicans have a shot next year. They already had worthless candidates out there in Palin, Trump and Bachman. The killing of bin laden just adds to the lead Obama will enjoy.

  6. Chris says:

    I would vote for Gary Johnson in 2016 but I think Obama gets another term. I am pretty liberal on social issues but I like fiscally conservative polices as well. The problem with (and why I despise) the Repubs is that they have extremists that want to use the government to cram their morals down our throats. They love big government spending, oppose drug war reforms, want to ban abortions, and have concept of keeping church separate from state. I identify with the Libertarian party but unfortunately have to support Dems in most races because I can’t stomach the Reputs.

    1. TF says:

      Chris, while I agree that there are definitely a group on the religious right that want to force their views on you, and I agree it’s a HUGE turnoff, most of your other issues are quite a ways off.
      * Big government spending – The Bush years were disappointing, but this is the trademark of the liberal left.
      * Drug War reforms – The right has opposed the drug wars as they have been extremely ineffective. In fact you are seeing more and more candidates on the right saying legalize pot and tax it.
      * Separation of church and state is a fundamental belief in the constitution, which guarantees freedom from religion. If anything the right has pushed to far to force religion into the public square.

      I also used to be like you, Clinton balanced the budget, gay marriage is a church issue not a state issue, abortion is abortion and Bush wasted money like LBJ. Unfortuently if you look at the views of the current DFL vs the GOP I want a country to be around in the future and only one party eve has a chance at providing that. Take a look at Ron Paul’s stance on the issues, he was a libertarian, but could represent the GOP.

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