BY CNN’s Wolf Blitzer
(CNN) – The economy will be issue No. 1 in the presidential contest. But national security will be important, as well, and we just got a preview of the political debate that will unfold between President Obama and his Republican challenger – whoever that will be.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the front-runner for the GOP nomination according to our latest CNN-ORC International poll, didn’t mention Obama by name, but his target was clear when he addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention Monday in San Antonio, Texas.
“We cannot concede the moral authority of our nation to multilateral debating societies,” Perry said in an apparent reference to Obama’s efforts to win U.N. Security Council support for NATO-led military action against Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. “And when our interests are threatened, American soldiers should be led by American commanders.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney went one step further, mincing no words in directly blasting the president Tuesday before the same audience.
“Have we ever had a president who was so eager to address the world with an apology on his lips and doubt in his heart,” Romney asked. “He seems truly confused not only about America’s past but our future.”
Obama skipped the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention to address the American Legion national convention in Minneapolis.
He took the high road in avoiding any reference to his possible Republican challengers, clearly avoiding any political shots. But he did have one response that he will certainly use often on the campaign trail.
“A few months ago,” he said, “our troops achieved our greatest victory yet in the fight against those who attacked us on 9/11, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, in one of the greatest intelligence and military operations in American history.”
And if long-time U.S. nemesis Gadhafi is captured or killed on his watch, the president will certainly have another response to his Republican opponents.
The national security debate is just getting started.
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