McCain slams Obama on leaks, defense cuts, leading from behind

The atmosphere was decidedly more low-key than the packed RNC opening night when the party’s 2008 nominee took the stage early Wednesday to take on the President’s foreign policy.

McCain opened with a characteristically self-deprecating nod to his ’08 loss:

It’s an honor, as always, my fellow Republicans, to join you at our national convention, and add my voice to yours as we nominate the next president of the United States, my friend, Governor Mitt Romney.

I had hopes once of addressing you under different circumstances. But our fellow Americans had another plan four years ago, and I accept their decision.

I’ve been blessed for so long to play a role in our nation’s affairs that I’m conscious only of the debt I owe America, and I thank you for the honor.

He proceeded to give a vigorous defense of American influence and take on Obama in the most specific terms we’ve seen from a podium speaker, hitting him on national security leaks, defense cuts, and “leading from behind” all over the world.

Unfortunately, for four years, we’ve drifted away from our proudest traditions of global leadership – traditions that are truly bipartisan. We’ve let the challenges we face, both at home and abroad, become harder to solve.

We can’t afford to stay on that course any longer.

We can’t afford to cause our friends and allies – from Latin America to Asia, Europe to the Middle East, and especially in Israel, a nation under existential threat – to doubt America’s leadership.

We can’t afford to give governments in Russia and China a veto over how we defend our interests and the progress of our values in the world.

We can’t afford to have the security of our nation and those who bravely defend it endangered because their government leaks the secrets of their heroic operations to the media.

I believe we can’t afford to substitute a political timetable for a military strategy.

By committing to withdraw from Afghanistan before peace can be achieved and sustained, the president has discouraged our friends and emboldened our enemies, which is why our commanders did not recommend that decision and why they have said it puts our mission at greater risk.

We can’t afford another $500 billion in cuts to our defense budget – on top of the nearly $500 billion in cuts that the president is already making. His own secretary of defense has said that cutting our military by nearly $1 trillion would be “devastating.”

And yet, the president is playing no leadership role in preventing this crippling blow to our military.

A wise congressman from Wisconsin has said, “Our fiscal policy and our foreign policy are on a collision course.” And that man is our next vice president, Paul Ryan.

But most of all, we can’t afford to abandon the cause of human freedom. When long-suffering peoples demand liberation from their jailers and torturers and tyrants, the leader of the free world must stand with them.

The line about national security leaks was his biggest applause line.

McCain also criticized Obama for inaction during uprisings in Iran and Syria, saying “the demand for our leadership in the world has never been greater. People don’t want less of America. They want more. Everywhere I go in the world, people tell me they still have faith in America.”

An op-ed in Foreign Policy today echoes his speech.

From the Free Beacon, here’s the leaks segment: