CARY, N.C. — U.S. Sen. John McCain told North Carolina veterans Tuesday that a victory by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would make the U.S. safer from global threats.
Speaking at VFW Post 7383 in Cary, McCain said President Barack Obama has endangered the nation's safety by cutting military spending and by demonstrating what McCain called a lack of leadership in the Middle East.
The Arizona senator, who lost to Obama in 2008, blasted the president for overriding the advice of some military leaders, saying the planned U.S. exit from Afghanistan in 2014 will clear the way for a resurgence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
McCain described the foreign policy speech that Romney delivered at Virginia Military Institute on Monday as strong and "Reagan-esque."
"I think he's a sharp contrast, because he believes that we should lead and he believes that this president is not leading, and therefore, there's a perception of weakness throughout the world," he said.
The Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three staffers, was orchestrated by terrorists, McCain said. Initial claims that the attack was spontaneous are proof that American intelligence efforts fell short or the Obama administration tried to spin the story, he said.
"People have a responsibility to be accountable. We intend to hold them accountable," he said. "The American people would get an entirely different brand of leadership with Mitt Romney as president."
Democratic 4th District Congressman David Price said polls show voters give Obama high marks on foreign policy, especially for killing al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
"It seems to me that's a very steep hill they've got to climb to try to make this president out to be some kind of foreign policy failure. It's one of his strongest suits," Price said.
McCain also blamed Obama for the automatic budget cuts slated to take effect in January, including $55 million from defense spending. A deficit-cutting deal would head off the cuts, which could cost the state thousands of jobs, but McCain complained that the president wants to include tax increases in any deal.
"That's not the way you negotiate," he said. "That's not the way Reagan negotiated. That's not the way Clinton negotiated. This president has no relations with the Republicans and, frankly, not much with the Democrats."
He acknowledged that Republicans in Congress bear some responsibility for the impending budget cuts, but said Obama has failed to take the lead on the issue.
"One of the things we saw for two years, when the president had overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate, (was) he never sat down with us. Not once," he said.
Price said the only reason there's no budget deal is that the GOP has been trying to bring government in Washington, D.C., to a halt for the past two years.
"It's got to involve the Republican Party getting off this tea party posture that they've adopted in recent years and coming to the table like reasonable people – like grown-ups – to get our country's problems addressed," he said.
After the Cary stop, McCain visited the North Carolina Veterans Park in Fayetteville on Tuesday afternoon with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a fellow member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Graham also was to hold another veterans rally in Wilmington on Tuesday evening.
Graham, McCain and 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers told the veterans in Cary that their votes could be crucial to the presidential election, and they asked them to help turn out the military vote for Romney.
Romney will visit Asheville on Thursday, and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner will appear in Raleigh on Romney's behalf on Saturday.