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Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican presidential candidate, speaks at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Reno, Nev., on July 24. (MAX WHITTAKER/NYT)
Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican presidential candidate, speaks at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Reno, Nev., on July 24. (MAX WHITTAKER/NYT)

Globe editorial

With complaints about security leaks, Romney risks playing to Obama’s strength Add to ...

For a country terribly scarred by terrorism, national security is a sacred trust. So it’s understandable that Republicans are tempted to complain endlessly about a series of leaks from the country’s security establishment that cast President Barack Obama in a favourable light.

The Republicans have raged on about the leaks for many weeks, and when he delivered a major foreign policy speech Tuesday, presidential candidate Mitt Romney piled on. In so doing, he gave voice to a fair concern, but one that may not help his own aspirations.

Not only have operational details of the successful raid on Osama bin Laden been leaked; so too, recently, was information about a secret “kill list” of terrorists targeted for assassination, each case requiring the authorization of the President himself. It’s not the first time the White House has maintained an enemies list, but – if it was indeed the source, which Mr. Obama’s administration has denied – it’s the first time it has publicly bragged about it.

Another leak revealed that the President had secretly ordered the acceleration of cyberattacks on computer systems that control Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities.

Charging that “Lives of American servicemen and women are at stake. ...this isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a national security crisis,” Mr. Romney called for an investigation by a special counsel, and demanded, “What kind of White House would reveal classified material for political gain?”

The answer seems obvious: any kind of White House, and especially one that wishes to disprove opponents’ claims of weakness.

Indeed, elsewhere in his speech, Mr. Romney attempted to portray Mr. Obama as a 97-pound weakling when it comes to defending U.S. interests abroad. How does evoking the President’s steely-eyed response to terrorists and state terror advance this particular thesis?

Poll results in the U.S. routinely show Mr. Obama more than 10 points ahead of Mr. Romney on foreign policy. Many show the opposite is true when it comes to the economy. By complaining about the security leaks, Mr. Romney only risks building up Mr. Obama’s lead.

It is true that the release of secret operational details has the potential to harm U.S. interests. Yet the sustained attention only serves to focus on one of Mr. Obama’s strengths, and distract from the real issue in the presidential campaign: the economy.

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