Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney charged Tuesday that President Barack Obama sought political gain by leaking classified details of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Romney planned to make the accusation Tuesday during an address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention on the eve of his visit to key U.S. allies Britain, Israel and Poland. Obama addressed the VFW on Monday as both candidates shift, if briefly, from economic issues that have been the focus of the campaign 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 U.S. troops. He demanded an investigation.
The White House did not immediately respond to Romney's accusations. Obama has rejected the notion that his administration has leaked classified information, earlier calling such allegations "offensive."
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Romney was resorting to "cheap attacks" on the president "that lack credibility rather than answering the most basic questions about his foreign policy agenda."
Romney aides said the former Massachusetts governor would use his speech to the VFW to outline his view that Obama has relinquished U.S. 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 U.S. economic recovery and stubbornly high 8.2 percent unemployment, and Romney has largely avoided other topics.
Obama is comfortable with military and foreign policy issues and cast himself in Monday's speech to the VFW as a steady commander in chief, tested by two wars and the successful raid that killed the al-Qaida 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 on Monday 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 on Monday, 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 Monday 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 U.S. 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 on Tuesday was continuing a Western campaign swing with appearances in Oregon and Washington state.
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