Mr. Biden took that message to the students of New York University in Manhattan Thursday, as part of a series of speeches the vice president has been assigned to lay out the case for reelecting the Obama-Biden team.
Thursday’s speech focused on national security, with Biden arguing that the United States is more secure than four years ago because of the president’s policies. He said those policies have decimated Al Qaeda, including by undertaking the risky operation that killed Mr. bin Laden; rebuilt America’s alliances with international partners; and revived the nation’s manufacturing base (including rescuing the auto industry), which he called the backbone of US economic security.
By contrast, Biden said, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, would take the US backward. Mr. Romney would return to a “go it alone” foreign policy and – if his strong criticism of Russia is any indication – would return to a “cold-war era,” Biden said.
“Governor Romney’s national-security policy would return us to the past we have worked so hard to move beyond,” Biden said. Romney, he added, would “isolate America instead of our enemies [and] waste hundreds of billions of dollars and risk thousands of American lives on an unnecessary war” – apparently referring to Romney’s criticism of Mr. Obama’s 2014 date for having all combat troops out of Afghanistan.
The Romney campaign called Biden’s comments a “fantasy narrative” in a “prebuttal” (released before Biden delivered his remarks). Romney aides say that under Obama, America has opted for “leading from the sidelines.”
Biden’s task in vaunting Obama’s foreign policy was easier than some of the other speeches he’s given on campaign issues – on economic policy, for example. Polls show the president earning some of his highest marks in the area of national security.
Still, Biden used the same argument against Romney that incumbents traditionally use against their opponents – that they don’t have the experience of the president. (Republicans used that argument against candidate Obama, a first-term senator, in 2008.)
Lacking experience in the international arena, Romney can be judged only by his “rhetoric,” Biden said.
So the vice president ran down a list of Romney’s foreign-policy pronouncements. He quoted Romney’s recent statement that “without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe is Russia,” and he said that reflected a “cold-war mind-set.”
He cited what he called the former governor’s “loose talk about war with Iran” and said such rhetoric “drives oil prices up,” adding, “when oil prices go up, Iran’s coffers fill up.”
Biden said Romney has also called for “crippling sanctions” on Iran, but said that the Obama administration, in cooperation with international partners including Russia, is already doing that. When Obama took office, Biden said, “Iran’s influence was spreading,” but he insisted that now “Iran is more isolated and the international community is more united” in the effort to deny Iran a nuclear weapon.
Biden also zeroed in on what he said is Romney’s “misunderstanding” of presidential leadership. He noted that Romney recently dismissed the “lack of foreign-policy experience” argument by saying a president can turn to the State Department and his national-security team for expertise.
Taking a veiled swipe at Romney the former business executive, Biden said such an approach “might work for a CEO.” But, he noted, the best and most experienced national-security teams have disagreements, and at some point the president has to exercise the judgment “that determines the destiny of the country.”
Biden spoke a day after Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida, who is said to figure on Romney’s shortlist of vice-presidential choices, delivered a foreign-policy speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington in which he argued for more robust American leadership in the world.
Biden could have been channeling Senator Rubio when he concluded his own speech by averring that “no nation is better positioned than the United States” to lead the world in the 21st century.