By Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden on Monday will denounce Republican Donald Trump’s call for a halt to Muslim immigration as an appeal to intolerance and defend the U.S. fight against Islamic State at a time of dissent within the Obama administration over Syria policy.
Biden will deliver a wide-ranging rebuke to Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for the Nov. 8 election, in a speech to the Center for New American Security think tank, according to excerpts released by the White House.
Biden, who has joined President Barack Obama in endorsing presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, plans to wade deeper into the campaign a week after Trump sparked criticism for his comments on American Muslims after a U.S.-born Muslim man killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
In a speech last Monday on national security, Trump stood by his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and proposed a suspension of immigration from countries with "a proven history of terrorism."
Biden, in his remarks, will say: “Wielding the politics of fear and intolerance - like proposals to ban Muslims from entering the United States or slandering entire religious communities as complicit in terrorism - calls into question America’s status as the greatest democracy in the history of the world.”
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Although not naming Trump, the vice president will say: “Alienating 1.5 billion Muslims - the vast, vast majority of whom, at home and abroad, are peace-loving - will only make the problem worse.”
Biden will also apparently chide Trump for having spoken admiringly of Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Embracing Putin at a time of renewed Russian aggression" could call into question the U.S. commitment to Europe’s security," he will say.
Referring to Trump's vow to erect a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico if elected, Biden will assert: “If we build walls and disrespect our closest neighbors,” it will reignite anti-U.S. sentiment in Latin America.
Biden’s defense of Obama’s strategy against Islamic State militants appears intended, at least in part, to push back against a recently leaked internal State Department memo critical of the president’s response to Syria's civil war.
The document, signed by 51 diplomats and reflecting long-standing frustration among Obama’s aides, calls for urgently broadening an approach, now focused on attacking Islamic State, to unleash air strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. U.S. officials made clear Obama would not be swayed.
“The use of force should be precise and proportional,” Biden will say. “There must be a clear mission that advances U.S. interests. Whenever possible, we should act alongside allies and partners."
(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Peter Cooney)