Vice President Joe Biden delivered the latest in a series of speeches intended to frame the fall campaign against Mitt Romney with a foreign policy address at New York University Thursday, slamming the presumptive Republican presidential nominee as a “CEO” out of his depth.
Touting the Obama administration’s successful mission to assassinate 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and the relatively smooth withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq, Biden repeated what will likely be his signature refrain of the campaign.
“If you’re looking for a bumper sticker to sum up how President Obama has handled what we inherited, it’s pretty simple: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” he said to the audience of 500 law students and national security experts. “You have to ask yourself, if Gov. Romney had been president, could he have used the same slogan…in reverse?”
Arguing that Romney would bring a return to the “go it alone” strategy of George W. Bush, who began the Iraq War with few allies less than two years after invading Afghanistan as part of a NATO coalition, Biden said Romney’s years as a business executive delegating tasks to subordinates was no fit for the nuanced foreign policy challenges facing America’s next president.
“He starts with a profound misunderstanding of the responsibilities of a President and the Commander-in-Chief,” Biden said. “Here’s what he said, and I want to quote him exactly. And I quote: ‘If we want someone who has a lot of experience in foreign policy, we can simply go to the State Department.’ He went on to say, and I quote, ‘But that’s not how we choose a President. A President is not a foreign policy expert.'”
“In my view,” Biden continued, “the last thing we need is a President who believes that he can subcontract our foreign policy to experts at the State Department, or for that matter, any other department or agency.”
Holding a conference call with reporters to rebut the charges, one of which was that Romney is stuck in Cold War-era thinking, Republican foreign policy experts seemed to buttress the Vice President’s case, using archaic terminology on more than one occasion. Former Reagan Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman said that the “Soviets” were taking advantage of a weaker U.S. military, and a Bush-era ambassador cited scuttled plans to place missile defense sites in “Czechoslovakia,” which has been called the Czech Republic for two decades.
Biden drew laughs when he cited the example of President Theodore Roosevelt as an inspiration for Obama.
“Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: ‘speak softly and carry a big stick.’ I promise you the President has a big stick. I promise you.”
Whereas George W. Bush and his father both got the better of Democrats on national security issues, Barack Obama effectively neutralized them in 2008. To be sure, the financial collapse that fall did draw attention away from foreign affairs and focus it on the failure of the Republican Party’s economic policies, but Obama appears to have won the debate over the Iraq War and split the votes of those concerned about another attack on the country evenly with John McCain, quite the accomplishment for a first-term senator with no military background going up against a war hero and Senate veteran.
It will be interesting to see how and when the Obama campaign attempts to insert national security issues into his re-election bid, an issue they know is a sure winner for them this time around. The elder Bush tried — and failed — to get Americans frightened about Bill Clinton’s weak foreign policy chops and lack of military record. It didn’t work, Clinton riding economic frustration to an easy win in the 1992 presidential race.
Check out the video of the “Big Stick” moment: