Obama says he will cut Republican candidates "some slack"

President Barack Obama gestures during his joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Monday, April 2, 2012, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

(CBS News) In a news conference in the Rose Garden on Monday, President Obama dismissed claims from Republican presidential candidates that he doesn't believe in "American exceptionalism."

The president said that because the Republican candidates are in the thick of the nomination process, "I will cut folks some slack for now cause they're still trying to get their nomination."

At a joint news conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the president was asked by a reporter about statements Mitt Romney has repeated on the campaign trail.

In an interview with conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt in March, Romney said the president's foreign policy lacks direction. "And that is something which is sort of lacking, and I think it flows from a, if you will, a questioning as to whether America is an exceptional nation, and a sense that somehow we all have common interests in the world," Romney said.

Republican candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have voiced similar statements on the campaign trail.

The president said his "entire career has been a testimony to American exceptionalism," and he said that his first national speech, which elevated his prominence within the Democratic Party at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, was "entirely about American exceptionalism." 

During the news conference, Prime Minister Harper also responded to the question saying, "I believe that American leadership is at all times great and indispensable for the world."

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