President Obama accused his Republican opponents of "beating the drums of war" in an election-year effort to use the nuclear standoff with Iran for political advantage.
In a news conference Tuesday, Obama pushed back hard against criticism lodged by GOP presidential hopefuls, warning against loose talk and "bluster" that can lead to deadly mistakes.
"When I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I'm reminded of the costs involved in war," Obama told reporters in his first news conference of the year. "This is not a game; there’s nothing casual about it."
Obama's comments came as a visit from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and increasing tensions over Iran's nuclear program have consumed Washington with speculation about possible military strikes. The talk spilled into the GOP campaign Tuesday, when the leading Republican candidates addressed a pro-Israel lobby in Washington. Each accused the president of taking a weak hand with a willful regime and offer mild support to Israel.
"Hope is not a foreign policy," former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said in prepared remarks. "The only thing respected by thugs and tyrants is our resolve, backed by our power and our readiness to use it."
But Obama sought to portray such remarks as dangerous political posturing. He noted that his administration had taken many of the actions proposed by the GOP candidates, dismissing Republicans' views as "big talk" of "folks don't have a lot of responsibilities."
"I think there's no doubt that those who are suggesting or proposing or beating the drums of war should explain clearly to the American people what they think the costs and benefits would be," Obama said. "I'm not one of those people."
Obama repeated his policy that the United States "will not countenance Iran getting a nuclear weapon." But he also stressed that he believes there is time to allow negotiations to work, pointing to the news that Iran has agreed to return to the table as evidence.
"It is deeply in everybody's interests -- the United States, Israel and the world's -- to see if this can be resolved in a peaceful fashion," he said. "This notion that somehow we have a choice to make in the next week or two weeks or month or two months is not borne out by the facts."
Despite the heavy focus on national security, national politics loomed large as the backdrop for Obama remarks on Super Tuesday. As the president spoke, voters in 10 states were preparing to weigh in on the GOP presidential primary.
Obama offered other pointed jabs at his potential rivals, but declined the offer to address any one of them specifically. Asked if he had any response to Romney's characterization of the president is "feckless," Obama said merely, "Good luck, tonight."
"No, really," a reporter pushed.
"Really," the president said.