Obama campaign surrogates Monday hammered Mitt Romney for merely criticizing the president on national security and foreign policy issues rather than offering his own policy prescriptions, challenging the presumptive GOP candidate to do just that on a major overseas trip.
On a conference call Monday with reporters, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Romney has "not engaged" on foreign and security policies.
During a swing through London, Israel and Poland this week, Romney needs to "prove he believes foreign policy is worthy of substantive discussion and not just sound bites," Gibbs said, adding Obama's foe "owes it to the American people to say where he stands on these issues."
Gibbs and other Obama surrogates portrayed the president's record on such issues as overwhelmingly positive, opining that Romney appears to be struggling to find chinks in Obama's national security and foreign policy armor.
Gibbs ticked off a list of things then-candidate Obama did on his own similar trip in the summer of 2008, including stops in Afghanistan, Iraq, meetings with leaders in Israel and other hot spots, as well as one-on-one interviews with network and cable news anchors.
At the conclusion of that 2008 jaunt, "people knew where [Obama] stood on all the major issues," Gibbs said, suggesting Romney's trip agenda suggests this week's trip could be "one long photo op [and] fund raiser."
Michele Flournoy, until earlier this year Obama's defense policy chief, challenged Romney to explain to Washington's closest allies in London and elsewhere why he appears to disagree with them over the Afghanistan withdrawal plan agreed upon by the U.S., NATO and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
During the trip, Romney must demonstrate he is up to having "open and honest discussions...with some of our strongest allies," Flournoy said.
Romney has said Russia poses the biggest threat to the United States. The Obama campaign expects Romney to say in Poland that the president's attempt to reset U.S.-Russian relations essentially amounted to Washington selling out its Eastern European allies.
To preempt such talk, Flournoy called those nations "stronger than ever" and noted Poland has agreed to host part of a missile defense shield pushed by the Obama White House and opposed by Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Finally, Colin Kahl, also a former Obama Pentagon official, harshly criticized Romney for a comment made last month that "You could just look at the things the president has done and do the opposite."
Kahl repeatedly referred to the Obama administration's efforts to get Israel a missile defense shield called "Iron Dome." That system, Kahl said, has saved Israeli lives amid ongoing rocket launches from Palestinian forces operating in the Gaza Strip.
"Doing the opposite," Kahl said, would mean reversing the Obama administration increase in security assistance to Tel Aviv, removing Iron Dome and opting against moves like Washington's 2011 efforts to help get Israelis out of their nation's embassy in Egypt as political tensions boiled in the North African country.
John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.