Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney moved today from his attacks on Barack Obama's handling of the struggling US economy to a charge that the president sought political gain by leaking classified details of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Romney planned to make the accusation today during an address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention. Obama addressed the VFW yesterday as both candidates shift, if briefly, from economic issues to military affairs and foreign policy.
In excerpts of the speech released by his campaign, Romney called the alleged leak "contemptible," saying such action betrayed the national interest and compromised US troops. He demanded an investigation.
Romney addresses the VFW on the eve of a visit to key US allies Britain, Israel and Poland. Aides said the former Massachusetts governor would use the speech to outline his view that Obama has relinquished US leadership around the world.
In an election that's expected to be one of the closest in recent memory, the race has been dominated by the weak US economic recovery and stubbornly high 8.2 per cent unemployment, and Romney has largely avoided other topics.
Obama is comfortable with military and foreign policy issues and cast himself in yesterday's speech to the VFW as a steady commander in chief, tested by two wars and the successful raid that killed the al-Qa'ida leader 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.
Obama yesterday suggested 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," Obama told the veterans group.
While raising money in California yesterday, Romney told supporters that "the consequence of American weakness is seen around us in the world."
Obama campaign officials challenged 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. Obama took an even broader foreign trip as a candidate in 2008.
Romney is expected to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among others.
Romney suggested yesterday that the Obama administration had not been aggressive enough in deterring Iran's nuclear ambitions or in trying to quell the violence in Syria.
The Obama administration has long called for Assad to leave Syria, relying on a strategy of sanctions and international isolation to pressure Assad into handing over power.
Romney said he agreed with Obama's call for Syrian President Bashar Assad's departure but said Obama had not shown proper leadership to force it.
"America should've come out very aggressively from the very
beginning and said Assad must go," Romney told CNBC. "The world looks
for American leadership and American strength."
On both issues, however, Romney has not outlined how he would alter US policy toward Iran or Syria.
The candidates shifted to world affairs after both campaigns quieted their mutual attacks out of respect for the movie theater massacre Friday in Colorado.
The tragedy did not inspire either candidate to speak up on the sensitive issue of gun control, and it did not keep them from chasing campaign contributions.
Romney headlined fundraisers over two days in California, netting $10 million. Obama was expected to raise more than $6 million during two days of West Coast fundraising.
Obama today was continuing a Western campaign swing with appearances in Oregon and Washington state.