US Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday cited the killing of Osama bin Laden as a reason why Americans should avoid "collective amnesia" and not elect presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
President Barack Obama's deputy hit out at Romney for his "profound misunderstanding" of presidential responsibility, saying the challenger's go-it-alone foreign policy platforms "would take us back to dangerous and discredited policies that would make us less safe."
Romney's campaign shot back that it was Biden who was pushing a "fantasy" foreign policy that is abdicating America's leadership role in the world.
In a New York speech one week ahead of the first anniversary of the killing of the late Al-Qaeda chief by US forces in Pakistan, Biden painted Romney as weak on foreign affairs, contrasting him with Obama -- a president he said has "a backbone like a ramrod."
"If you are 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," Biden said, referring to the auto industry bailout.
"You have to ask yourself, if governor Romney had been president, could he have used the same slogan -- in reverse? People are going to make that judgment."
For months, the campaigns have zeroed in on the sputtering US economy, but the two sides have expanded their jabs this week to include positions on Iran, ties with Russia and Israel, and the crisis in Syria.
The attack on Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, signaled a sharpening of the Democratic Party campaign for the November 6 election, in which the president is aiming to win a second term.
Biden, who was Obama's point man for handling the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, said the incumbent had kept Americans safe at home and abroad, arguing that the contrast with Romney "could not be greater."
"Al-Qaeda was resurgent and Osama bin Laden was at large. Our alliances were dangerously frayed," said Biden, referring to the legacy inherited from Republican president George W. Bush.
"President Obama ended the war in Iraq responsibly. He set a clear strategy and end date for the war in Afghanistan. He cut in half the number of Americans serving in harm's way," Biden said.
"Governor Romney's national security policy would return us to the past we have worked so hard to move beyond... It is no different than what governor Romney has proposed for our economy -- taking us back to the failed policies that got us into the mess President Obama has dug us out of."
Biden sought to remind voters that Obama, locked in a tight race with Romney six months out from the election, "saved our economy from collapse" with some "unpopular but bold decisions," and stabilized relations with US allies.
"Governor Romney is counting on our collective amnesia, but Americans know that we cannot afford to go back to the future," Biden said, "back to a foreign policy that would have America go it alone, shout to the world you're either with us or against us, lash out first and ask the hard questions later."
Biden quoted from several Romney speeches to portray a candidate who at first supported the US withdrawal from Iraq but then said it was "an enormous error," who wants to keep US troops indefinitely in Afghanistan and who describes Russia as "our number one geopolitical foe."
"Governor Romney is mired in a Cold War mindset," Biden said, accusing Obama's rival of seeking to "subcontract our foreign policy" to outside experts if he were president.
"That's not how it works," Biden said. "Almost every significant case calls for a final judgment call to be made by the president."
Romney's camp offered sharp rebuttals in a conference call with aides and advisers.
Obama's weakness in handling crises like Syria has made the United States "a spectator on issues of national security," ex-ambassador Pierre Prosper said.
Romney foreign policy adviser Dan Senor, a former chief spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said Obama has "downgraded" US relations with Israel and abdicated its leadership role in the past three years.
"The vice president seems to focus on a fantasy narrative, if you will, about the Obama administration's record in improving relations with the world (and) 'repairing' relations with American allies."
On Iran, Romney adviser Alex Wong said Washington must present a credible military threat, but the Obama administration instead "has gone out of its way to convey that the military option is not serious," allowing Tehran to pursue its nuclear program without fear of retaliation.
Source: AFP American Edition