By Josh Lederman - 04/26/12 04:04 PM EDT
Vice President Biden rebuked Mitt Romney on foreign policy Thursday, attacking the presumptive GOP nominee as unprepared to serve as commander in chief.
It was the Obama administration's most direct and specific rebuttal of Romney to date, reflecting the intensity of the general-election campaign that is now fully under way.
Rather than speak generally about Romney or the Republican agenda, Biden spent most of his address at New York University — the fifth in a series of campaign speeches he is giving — quoting statements by Romney from years past and then refuting each one line by line.
“Without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe is Russia,” Biden said, quoting a comment Romney made in March while criticizing Obama.
The vice president paused to let the audience laugh before continuing.
“As my brother would say, ‘Go figure,’” Biden said, accusing Romney of a Cold War mentality that viewed foreign policy through a rear-view mirror.
The killing of Bin Laden and Obama’s successes in combating terrorism were front and center as Biden emphasized the administration’s largest foreign-policy accomplishments.
“This guy’s got a backbone like a ramrod. No, no, for real,” Biden said, describing the decision to send Navy SEALs after bin Laden in Pakistan. “We can’t say for certain what Gov. Romney would have done.”
“I promise you the president has a big stick. I promise you,” Biden said later, in a reference to former President Teddy Roosevelt's "speak softly and carry a big stick" slogan that left his audience giggling awkwardly.
Biden said it was unclear what Romney would do with the nation’s foreign policy if elected president, but that he clearly would start with “a profound misunderstanding of the responsibilities of the president and a commander in chief.” He pointed to Romney’s comments about the need for crippling sanctions against Iran, noting that such sanctions have already been put in place and have been curtailing Iran’s flexibility.
“Folks, loose talk about a war has incredibly negative consequences in our efforts to end Iran’s nuclear quest. It unsettles world oil markets. It drives up oil prices. When oil prices go up, Iran’s coffers fill up, undermining the sanctions that are in existence,” Biden said.
“This type of Romney talk is just not smart,” he added.
In anticipation of Biden’s speech, Romney’s campaign dispatched foreign-policy surrogates to challenge Biden’s description of events and accuse the Obama administration of weakening U.S. standing abroad.
“The vice president seems to focus on a fantasy narrative about the Obama administration’s record in improving relations in the world,” said Dan Senor, a Romney foreign policy adviser.
Former Navy Secretary John Lehman, another Romney backer, said on a conference call with reporters that Obama’s proposed budget amounted to “unilateral disarmament” and that the United States had failed to lead an effort to combat pirates off the coast of Africa.
“This is serious crisis and perhaps could be the central issue in the campaign,” Lehman said.