COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said Thursday that President Barack Obama has moved too late and with too little force in response to Syria's crackdown on dissent.
In coordinated statements Thursday, Obama and the leaders of Britain, France and Germany and the European Union said Syrian President Bashar Assad should resign and that his suppression of his people had made him unfit to lead. Obama is also giving his administration authority to impose new sanctions against Syria.
"This is yet one more instance of President Obama leading from behind on foreign policy," Bachmann told reporters after a rally a few blocks from the South Carolina's Statehouse.
Bachmann has been emphasizing her foreign policy credentials as a member of the House Intelligence Committee and has been sharply critical of Obama's handling of Libya and Israel.
"The president should have acted weeks ago to call on President Assad to step down when his regime started slaughtering and oppressing his own Syrian people — by this count now it's thousands of Syrians," she said.
On top of the sanctions Obama called for Thursday, Bachmann said he should expel the Syrian ambassador in the U.S. "And the president should immediately withdraw the United States ambassador to Syria," she said.
"Better late than never is no way to conduct United States foreign policy," she said.
The congresswoman from Minnesota also said that Syria is "seeking to become a nuclear-armed nation. And clearly it is unacceptable for Syria to become a nuclear-armed nation."
Bachmann's remarks to reporters came in the middle of a three-day campaign swing in South Carolina after her narrow win Saturday in the Iowa straw poll, an early test of popularity and campaign organization.
She finished the day talking to crowd of around 400 in Florence, bringing cheers as she heaped criticism on Obama.
"His chief problem is that he was wrong on issues. He was wrong, flat wrong, but he was willing to use that office to advocate for what wasn't true," she said.
Bachmann has been playing up her background as a tax lawyer to say she's got what it takes to fix the nation's budget and economy — "My entire background has been in economics" — and that the prescription is spending cuts, less regulation and lower taxes.
"We will get to a balanced budget, we will," she said, promising she'd only submit balanced budgets as president. "There is no need to raise the debt ceiling when you balance your budget and when you live within your means."
She's promising a broad spectrum of actions that will be tough to accomplish. At a Tuesday stop in Greenville, for instance, Bachmann promised that gasoline prices would fall to $2 and that during her first 100 days she would propose a budget that radically cuts spending, changing the tax code so filers can use a post card for returns, and repealing the federal health care overhaul and the financial overhaul law.