The killing of Osama Bin Laden nearly a year ago is one of the Obama administration’s proudest accomplishments, but asked about it in December, Mitt Romney was only willing to offer up this bit of grudging half-praise for President Obama’s leadership. “We’re delighted that he gave the order to take out Osama bin Laden,” Romney said, “any president would have done that.”
The Obama campaign would argue — and is arguing, this week — that not every president would have done that, actually. Specifically … Mitt Romney! Because in 2007, Romney — in yet another soundbite of yore that will haunt his 2012 candidacy — proclaimed, “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.” He also disagreed with Obama’s promise to carry out unilateral actions against terrorists in Pakistan if necessary. “I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours,” Romney said on the campaign trail in August of 2007. “I don’t think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort.”
The Obama campaign has saved its fire on this one, but in the past couple of days, it has begun to unload. It started yesterday with Joe Biden’s speech at NYU. “We can’t say for certain what Governor Romney would have done,” Biden said, referring to mission to kill Bin Laden. Today, the Obama campaign continues the assault by making the same point in a web ad featuring Bill Clinton.
The juxtaposition between Obama and Romney on this issue is stark and easy to grasp. You can be sure the Obama campaign will return to it constantly in the coming months. Just as surely, the right will fight back. Obama is stealing credit from our brave Navy SEALs, they may say, or politicizing the war on terror. Already, a statement from Team Romney calls it “sad to see the Obama campaign seek to use an event that unified our country to once again divide us, in order to try to distract voters’ attention from the failures of his administration.” For the Obama campaign, it’s well worth the backlash. Because as Romney’s statement notes, every time this debate flares up, we’re talking about the time Obama killed Osama Bin Laden, and not the economy he has yet to fully revive.