Emanuel: Obama has taken "decisive leadership" on foreign policy

(CBS News) President Obama's first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, rebuked criticism of the president's handling of foreign policy, saying the president has shown "decisive leadership" on Libya, Iraq, Iran and China.

"America's leadership has never been stronger," Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, said today on "Face the Nation."

Emanuel argued that the "tables have been turned" on Iran, saying the country is "now isolated from the rest of the world" because of sanctions. "That is a success of American leadership," he said. He also pointed to the end of the war in Iraq and the winding down of the war in Afghanistan as additional successes of Mr. Obama. Finally, he said the president is "reorienting America's resources to rebuilding at home to [handle] the threat, the challenge coming from China."

"At every level, America's foreign policy abroad in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East is respected because they have seen this president take decisive leadership," Emanuel added. "[A]ll with the purpose of coming home and building America and the best foreign policy you can have is a strong America at home."

Critics of the president have sought to interject foreign policy into the presidential election although the economy is at the forefront of peoples' minds. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., harshly criticized the president on "Face the Nation" this morning about his handling of Libya, calling it a "debacle" of "incompetence" or a "cover up."

McCain: Libya either a "cover up" or "incompetence"

Emanuel, however, disagreed with McCain's assessment. He pointed to the president's immediate order of an investigation and his vow to bring those who committed the assassinations "to justice."

"[A]s commander in chief, he took control and he said exactly what needs to be done," he argued.

He defended administration officials' immediate response to the Libya attacks for blaming the violence on a "spontaneous" demonstration over an anti-Muslim American made film. He said officials were equipped with intelligence information provided at the time and that "many different apparatus" of intelligence gathering is attempting to convey information based on "a changing event."

"None of us are privy to the information," Emanuel said.

Turning the foreign policy discussion to the economy, he added, "[T]he president said to be strong at home, to be strong abroad, you must have an economic strategy built on the middle class."

Emanuel is on a campaign swing in Ohio on behalf of the president. He called the bailout of the auto industry "courageous," pointing to the unemployment rate in Ohio that's down to seven percent from ten percent when the president came into office.

The Obama campaign's get out the vote effort, Emanuel said, is "starting to pay off" in Iowa, Ohio and Florida because more Democrats are turning out to vote early than in 2008, he argued.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.