Santorum blasts Obama as weak on Iran threat

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum gestures as he speaks at a rally at the Jelly Belly Candy Co. in Fairfield, Calif., Thursday, March 29, 2012. Santorum strongly criticized President Barack Obama in a foreign policy speech that suggested the United States has been weak on Iran, ignores ally Israel and rushes to engage America's enemies. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

(AP) FAIRFIELD, Calif. - Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum strongly criticized President Barack Obama on foreign policy Thursday, saying that the United States has been slow to address Iran's threat to develop nuclear weapons, has ignored its ally Israel and rushes to engage America's enemies.

Santorum suggested that many of Obama's foreign policy decisions have been based on political considerations because the November presidential election is approaching. He pointed to an incident earlier this week in which Obama was caught on tape telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more room to negotiate on missile defense after the November election.

"Here's the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, saying, `Give me a little space, buddy, a little space, a little flexibility, because I've got an election coming up and then I'll be, then I'll throw some of our other allies under the bus," Santorum said.

Santorum spoke to about 200 supporters at the Jelly Belly Candy Co. in Fairfield, Calif., touching on familiar criticisms of the president and repeatedly invoking President Ronald Reagan, who made the candy company famous by serving its jelly beans from his desk at the White House.

In a reference to Reagan's 1986 summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in which their nuclear treaty talks fell apart, Santorum said: "Ronald Reagan didn't whisper to Gorbachev, `Give me some flexibility.' He walked out of Iceland."

The former Pennsylvania senator said Obama has taken his eye off the real threat facing America, the development of a nuclear weapon in Iran, to avoid a confrontation before the election.

"And what has he done on that front? What he's done on that front is the same thing he did off-camera with the president of Russia. `Give me a little time,' and that's exactly what he's given to Iran, a little time," he said.

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Obama has said he didn't have a hidden agenda with Russia and that his comments caught on tape only meant that election-year politics make any nuclear arms reduction or missile defense negotiations extremely difficult.

Santorum was fundraising in California. The state's primary does not come until June, and the state is not typically in play, but Santorum told supporters that this year their votes will matter. In the meantime, he urged them to give generously and to call their friends in Wisconsin.

Santorum also invoked Reagan's name to jab at front-runner Mitt Romney, saying Romney lacks Santorum's core convictions on the economy, social issues and on foreign policy. He held a mini Etch A Sketch, a reference to a comment by a Romney aide who said the former Massachusetts governor would be able to reset his campaign after the extended primary fight.

"No one doubted where Ronald Reagan was on the issue of communism. No one doubted where he was, there was no sense that there might be an Etch A Sketch policy when it came to our national security," he said.

Santorum said he has been consistent in stressing radical Islam as the primary foreign threat against America and pushing for sanctions against Syria and Iran.

The former senator also said Obama is threatening the future stability of Iraq and Afghanistan by signaling the U.S. exit strategy and that he wrongly abandoned missile programs in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Santorum said Obama has endangered the state of Israel because of his "lack of moral certitude, the lack of vision, of the greatness of our country."

At one point, as Santorum emphasized his socially conservative values, including opposition to abortion and gay marriage, a woman in the back of the room interrupted his speech and yelled, "California stands for marriage equality." Santorum eventually asked the crowd to drown out the woman with clapping and cheers, and security removed her from the room.

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