US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a sweeping indictment of US 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 stunningly sharp attack on Obama, issued on Tuesday in a Reno, Nevada, speech to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, sets up Romney’s journey this week to Britain, Israel and Poland, key US allies.
Romney is seeking to boost his foreign policy credentials. A lack of specific proposals has exposed him to a flurry of criticism from Obama and his surrogates. Just over three months from election day, the president’s team has dug in on its efforts to cast the Republican as a national security lightweight while trying to capitalize on Obama’s strength on such issues.
Romney’s campaign has swatted away that criticism, but it has also shown few signs that the presumptive Republican nominee will offer more specific areas of contrast with Obama when he meets with world leaders overseas. Instead, Romney has continued with broad jabs casting Obama as a timid leader who has 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.
In a close race that has so far focused almost entirely on the sluggish economy, Romney also criticized Obama over potential cuts in the defense budget and critiqued his handling of Iran’s nuclear threat, the violence in Syria and relations with Israel during an appearance at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention.
Following Romney’s speech on Tuesday, US Vice President Joe Biden said the Republican candidate “reflexively criticizes the president’s policies without offering any alternatives.”
“When he does venture a position,” Biden said, “it’s a safe bet that he previously took exactly the opposite position and will probably change his mind again and land in the wrong place — far out of the mainstream.”
The most serious charge among Romney’s many allegations against Obama was the accusation of leaking secrets for political gains. Romney demanded that a special independent counsel be assigned to investigate to ensure that those involved are “exposed, dismissed and punished. The time for stonewalling is over.”
Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed two federal prosecutors to get to the bottom of the leaks, but Romney suggested that was not good enough. The White House has rejected calls for a special prosecutor, saying there is no need for one.
Romney stopped short of accusing Obama specifically of leaking information that includes details of the mission that killed Osama bin Laden last year. During a news conference last month, Obama called the leak accusations “offensive” and “wrong.” White House spokesman Jay Carney responded on Tuesday by saying that Obama “has made abundantly clear that he has no tolerance for leaks and he thinks leaks are damaging to our national security interests.”