President Obama on Tuesday forcefully rebuked Republicans on the presidential campaign trail and in Congress for “beating the drums of war” in criticizing his efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, underscoring how squarely the national security issue had entered the election-year debate.
Mr. Obama’s comments, in which he suggested without naming Iraq that the United States only recently had gone to war “wrapped up in politics,” came in a televised news conference. The White House scheduled it on a day when leading Republicans were addressing an influential pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as Aipac, at its annual conference.
There, the two leading Republican presidential candidates, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, assailed Mr. Obama’s foreign policy as ineffective and weak in their appeals to the group. The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, called for Congress to authorize the use of force against Iran.
The president was withering in his retort. “Those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities,” Mr. Obama said. “They’re not commander in chief. When I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war” — for those who go into combat, for national security and the economy. “This is not a game,” he added. “And there’s nothing casual about it.”