Under fire for playing politics with Osama bin Laden’s killing, President Obama defended himself Monday and repeated questions in a campaign ad about whether Mitt Romney would have ordered the raid that killed the 9/11 mastermind.
“I hardly think you’ve seen any excessive celebration,” Mr. Obama said during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. “The American people rightly remember what we as a country accomplished in bringing to justice somebody who killed over 3,000 of our citizens. It’s a mark of the effectiveness of intelligence teams, of our military teams — it’s a process that worked.”
The president went on to say that it is “entirely appropriate” for those involved in the mission to use the anniversary of bin Laden’s death as “a time of reflection.” He wasn’t asked specifically about the appropriateness of using the killing of the world’s most notorious terrorist as a campaign theme.
Responding to a question about Mr. Romney’s comment that anyone would have authorized the Navy SEAL team raid on bin Laden’s compound — “even Jimmy Carter” — Mr. Obama told reporters to look at the “people’s previous statements.”
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. Romney expressed reservations about sending U.S. forces into Pakistan to take out terrorists.
The Obama campaign team’s most recent video features Bill Clinton and reminds voters of Mr. Romney’s quote, arguing that Mr. Romney would not have made the same decision to launch the raid if he were president.
“I said we’d go after bin Laden, if we had a shot at him,” Mr. Obama told reporters. “And that’s what we did. If there’s others who said they would do one thing, and now are doing something else, I would let them explain it.”
Team Romney returned the fire Monday afternoon by calling the ad and Mr. Obama’s decision to repeat the charges during the news briefing “a cheap political ploy and an opportunity to distort Gov. Romney’s policies on the war on terror.”
“President Obama’s feckless foreign policy has emboldened our adversaries, weakened our allies and threatens to break faith with our military,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “While the Obama administration has naively stated that ‘the war on terror is over,’ Gov. Romney has always understood we need a comprehensive plan to deal with the myriad threats America faces.”
Late Monday, the Daily Mail, a London tabloid, reported that some current and former Navy SEALs aren’t happy about the highly trained unit being dragged into the presidential campaign.
“The decision was a no-brainer. I applaud him for making it, but I would not overly pat myself on the back for making the right call,” said Mr. Zinke, now a Republican state lawmaker in Montana.
Another former SEAL said using the bin Laden raid for political purposes is a “cheap shot.”
“No one disputes that the president deserves credit for ordering the raid, but to politicize it in this way is the height of hypocrisy,” Mr. McCain said in a statement issued by the Republican National Committee. “This is the same president who said, after bin Laden was dead, that we shouldn’t ‘spike the ball’ after the touchdown. And now Barack Obama is not only trying to score political points by invoking Osama bin Laden, he is doing a shameless end-zone dance to help himself get re-elected.”