WASHINGTON – Speaking before an audience in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations, former Gov. and presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty sought to differentiate his approach to foreign policy from other Republicans and President Obama.
Pawlenty, who frequently cites his foreign travel while governor as an example of his foreign policy bona fides, said President Obama had “failed to formulate and carry out an effective and coherent strategy” in response to the democratic uprisings in the Arab world this year.
He repeated a criticism of the President’s multilateral approach to foreign policy made by fellow candidate and Minnesotan, Rep. Michele Bachmann, saying that, “America never leads from behind.”
In a veiled attack on some of his GOP presidential rivals, Pawlenty said some elements of the Republican Party “now seem to be trying to out-bid the Democrats in appealing to isolationist sentiments.”
Pawlenty criticized Obama’s policy of engagement with Iran and Syria, saying that the U.S. had failed to promote democracy in the region with enough vigor.
When pressed during the question period about what he would do in Syria, Pawlenty ruled out using military force, saying “there are other things we can do.”
While the speech concentrated on democracy in the Arab world, it was notable that there was just one reference in the delivered remarks to Iraq, where the U.S. has been actively involved in building the country’s democracy since its invasion in 2003.
Pawlenty said the the country, which is still beset by internal divisions and acts of terrorism was “further along on its journey toward democracy,” a position he stuck to during questions.
In addition the foreign policy speech, Pawlenty’s trip to New York included at least one high-dollar fundraising event hosted by real estate developers and bankers.
The fundraiser comes as the June 30 deadline approaches to close the books on this quarter’s fundraising. Pawlenty’s campaign has reportedly struggled to gain traction with donors.
Listen to the speech here.