Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a statement of President Barack Obama’s conduct of foreign policy, including a charge that the White House sought political gain by leaking classified details of the military raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
The speech given Tuesday, in Reno, Nevada to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), sets up Mr. Romney’s journey this week to Britain, Israel and Poland, key American allies.
Mr. Romney did not detail how, specifically, he would alter U.S. policy even as he implied that Mr. Obama had stood by as Washington lost global supremacy and leadership of the free world.
“If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I am not your president. You have that president today,” the former Massachusetts governor told the appreciative audience of veterans.
Both candidates have been trading charges over who was best able to reinvigorate the struggling U.S. economy, but they have turned to foreign affairs in recent days in advance of their speeches to the VFW and Mr. Romney’s travels abroad. Polls show the economy remains uppermost in the minds of voters in what is expected to be one of the closest presidential elections in recent history.
The most serious charge among Mr. Romney’s many allegations against Mr. Obama was the accusation of leaking secrets. Mr. Romney demanded that a special counsel be assigned to investigate. The White House did not immediately respond to the accusations. Mr. Obama has rejected the notion that his administration has leaked classified information, earlier calling such allegations “offensive.”
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Mr. Romney was resorting to “cheap attacks” on the president “that lack credibility rather than answering the most basic questions about his foreign policy agenda.”
Among the vast array of attacks on Mr. Obama, the Republican candidate said:
– The president was “fond of lecturing Israel’s leaders” and that his administration was among the “chorus of accusations, threats and insults [against Israel] at the United Nations.”
– Mr. Obama’s plan to have U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 was “a politically timed retreat.” However, Mr. Romney agreed that Afghan forces should be in charge of their own security by that time.
– Mr. Obama had engaged in appeasement of Russia that “began with the sudden abandonment of friends in Poland and the Czech Republic” where the administration of former president George W. Bush had planned to install missile defence systems to guard against Iranian attack. Russia contended the installations would upset the carefully crafted balance of missile forces in Europe.
Mr. Romney closed his fiery attack by saying he would “use every means necessary” to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
He failed to acknowledge that Mr. Obama also has said he does not rule out using military force if negotiations fail to dissuade Tehran from the enrichment of uranium to levels that could be used in building a bomb.
Mr. Romney’s advisers, meanwhile, told Britain’s The Daily Telegraph that Mr. Romney would abandon Mr. Obama’s “left-wing” coolness toward London.
In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one adviser suggested Mr. Romney was better placed to understand the ties between the countries than Mr. Obama, whose father was from Africa. “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr. Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”
The conduct of foreign policy is one of Mr. Obama’s greatest strengths going into the November election. But Mr. Romney, taking a page from the Obama playbook, was trying to turn that issue into a negative.
In his speech to the VFW convention on Monday, Mr. Obama cast himself as a steady commander in chief, tested by two wars and the successful raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader Mr. bin Laden in his Pakistan hideout. The President touted his record as one of promises kept, including ending the war in Iraq and winding down the conflict in Afghanistan.
Mr. Obama also said Mr. Romney would have kept troops in Iraq indefinitely and criticized him for opposing the President’s 2014 timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“That’s not a plan for America’s security,” Mr. Obama told the veterans group.
Obama campaign officials have challenged Mr. Romney to offer clear policy ideas during his three-country trip, which will be viewed as a measure of how well the Republican candidate can stand up on the world stage. Mr. Obama took an even broader foreign trip as a candidate in 2008.
Mr. Romney is expected to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among others.