Rich Pedroncelli / AP
Published Tuesday, July 24, 2012 | 12:26 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, July 24, 2012 | 3:11 p.m.
RENO — Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney took aim at President Barack Obama’s foreign policy record during a speech before the VFW today, accusing Obama of putting troops at risk with national security leaks, mistreating America’s most important allies and kowtowing to despotic leaders.
In a stark contrast to Obama’s speech to the same convention Monday, Romney delivered a series of heated attacks against the administration in an address suited for the campaign trail.
In one of his most pointed assaults, Romney questioned whether the White House was complicit in a series of leaks to the New York Times, accusing the administration of leaking sensitive information for political gain.
“This conduct is contemptible,” Romney said. “It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands full and prompt investigation, with explanation and consequence.”
Romney said the American people deserve an explanation for the leaks.
“If the President believes — as he said last week — that the buck stops with him, then he owes all Americans a full and prompt accounting of the facts,” Romney said.
Romney echoed calls from Sen. John McCain and others in Congress for an investigation following two New York Times stories on the administration’s cyber war against Iran and Obama’s so-called terrorist “kill list.”
Responding to those calls for investigations in June, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters the Obama administration “takes all appropriate and necessary steps to prevent leaks of classified information, of sensitive information that could risk ongoing counterterrorism or intelligence operations."
“Any suggestion that the White House has leaked sensitive information for political purposes has no basis in fact and has been denied by the authors themselves,” he told the press gaggle.
Romney struck a vastly more political tone in his VFW speech than Obama did one day earlier.
While Obama borrowed a few times from his stump speech, lobbed a few oblique attacks Romney’s way and complained about Republicans in Congress, he focused more on his work on veterans programs.
Romney did not take a similar tack.
“And let me be clear: These events make the decision we face in November all the more important,” he said of the national security leaks. “What kind of White House would reveal classified material for political gain? I’ll tell you right now: Mine won’t.”
On Israel, Romney accused Obama of the “shabby treatment of one of our finest friends.” He accused Obama of a “politically timed” retreat in Afghanistan," which could lead to more war and “attacks here at home.” He mocked Obama for calling to congratulate Vladimir Putin when he won the presidency “in a corrupt election.”
Romney also sought to set the tone for his upcoming foreign policy tour. He left Reno for London, his first stop on a tour of three countries.
Trying to distinguish his world view from Obama’s, Romney delivered a foreign policy statement strongly rooted in American exceptionalism.
“I do not view America as just one more point on the strategic map, one more power to be balanced,” Romney said. “I believe our country is the greatest force for good the world has ever known, and that our influence is needed as much now as ever.”
Obama entered the presidency intent on repairing America’s image abroad and mending relationships with allies to better meet national security threats.
He brought a close to the Iraq War and is closing the Afghanistan War and has led a more tactical effort against terrorist leaders.
In his speech Monday, Obama put it this way: “We’re not just ending these wars; we’re doing it in a way that achieves our objectives. Moreover, it’s allowed us to broaden our vision and begin a new era of American leadership. We’re leading from Europe to the Asia Pacific, with alliances that have never been stronger. Because we’re leading around the world, people have a new attitude toward America. There’s more confidence in our leadership.”
Obama’s Nevada campaign spokeswoman Aoife McCarthy fired back that Romney lost credibility by relying on “cheap attacks.”
“With all of the complex global challenges facing our nation today, Gov. Romney’s much-hyped foreign policy speech once again is all bluster, offering no specific plans for our relations with any region of the world,” McCarthy said.
This story has been updated to no longer make reference to a disputed quote.