Rudy Giuliani is jumping on Mitt Romney today for saying during Tuesday's debate that he would consult with lawyers before deciding whether he would need Congressional approval to take military action against Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program.
And Giuliani's campaign is trying to twist the proverbial knife by likening Romney's response to Democrat John F. Kerry saying during a 2004 presidential debate that America must pass a "global test" before taking military action.
Romney's response -- what some pundits are calling the closest thing to a gaffe during the Michigan debate -- came on a question about whether the president would need authorization from Congress to attack Iran.
"You sit down with your attorneys and tell you want you have to do, but obviously the president of the United States has to do what's in the best interest of the United States to protect us against a potential threat. The president did that as he was planning on moving into Iraq and received the authorization of Congress," Romney said.
Asked whether President Bush needed that authorization, Romney replied, "You know, we're going to let the lawyers sort out what he needed to do and what he didn't need to do. But, certainly, what you want to do is to have the agreement of all the people -- leadership of our government as well as our friends around the world where those circumstances are available."
In response, the Romney campaign said that he gave the strongest answer to the question. "He moved quickly past a legal hypothetical posed by the moderator and made it clear that the President's need to act in the best interests of protecting the American people was the most important consideration, with questions about authorization being a secondary concern," campaign spokesman Kevin Madden said in a statement.
The Romney camp, in turn, accused Giuliani of giving the "most muddled and puzzling answer" because the former New York mayor said "it really depends on exigency of the circumstances and how legitimate it is" on whether a president needs the blessing of Congress.
The exchange is the latest between Giuliani and Romney, who have been going after each other on taxes and spending and whose increasingly testy battle is starting to dominate the Republican race.
Giuliani's latest salvo is particularly pointed for a former Republican governor of Massachusetts because it compares him to Kerry, the Bay State's junior US senator and a Democrat.
Giuliani's camp pointed out that Kerry said, "No president, though all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it... you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you’re doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."