Obama: “I Said That We’d Go After bin Laden if We Had a Clear Shot at Him and I Did.”
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden. The president’s campaign has taken the opportunity to remind the American people of one of his greatest achievements, as well as Mitt Romney’s very different record on the issue. As a result, the Romney campaign and some in the media like Arianna Huffington have accused the president of “politicizing” the occasion.
Here are the facts.
- FACT: President Bush turned his focus toward Iraq and the trail for Osama bin Laden went “stone cold.”
Just a few months after we were attacked on 9/11, President Bush remarked:
Who knows if he’s hiding in some cave or not. We haven’t heard from him in a long time. The idea of focusing on one person really indicates to me people don’t understand the scope of the mission. Terror is bigger than one person. He’s just a person who’s been marginalized. … I don’t know where he is. I really just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.
The Bush administration, of course, blew a huge opportunity to capture bin Laden early in the War in Afghanistan when bin Laden was allowed to escape from Tora Bora after pleas from commanders and intelligence officials for more resources were rebuffed by top Bush national security officials. In 2005, Bush passed on a mission to capture “senior members of Al Qaeda” in 2005 because “it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan.” Later that year, the CIA shuttered its bin Laden unit entirely as part of a broader shift in resources toward Iraq. By 2006, Bush told Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard that capturing bin Laden was “not a top priority use of American resources.” By late 2006, bin Laden’s trail had gone “stone cold.”
See the complete bin Laden timeline here.
- FACT: President Obama ordered the military to kill Osama bin Laden and Osama bin Laden is dead.
During the 2008 campaign, the president promised that “if we have actionable intelligence about high-level al Qaeda targets in Pakistan’s border region, we must act if Pakistan will not or cannot.” During an October 2008 debate with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the president stated:
We will kill bin Laden. We will crush al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.
As he brought the Iraq War to a responsible end, the president refocused attention back toward the terrorists that attacked us on 9/11 and those who still seek to do us harm. Making good on his promise, President Obama made the decision to order a daring raid into Pakistan and brave members of our military killed Osama bin Laden.
- FACT: In 2007, Mitt Romney publicly attacked Obama for proposing the very tactic that ultimately killed bin Laden.
In 2007, Mitt Romney injected himself into the Democratic primary campaign and criticized Barack Obama for vowing to go after “high-value intelligence targets” in Pakistan with or without permission. Romney said, “I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours.” Here was the August 4, 2007 headline from Reuters:
While Romney claimed today that “of course” he would have also ordered the raid to kill bin Laden, he attacked the president in 2007 for vowing to do just that.
- FACT: Mitt Romney called killing Osama bin Laden “insignificant” and said it wasn’t “worth moving Heaven and Earth.”
In April 2007, Romney said, “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.” According to the Associated Press, Romney also said “the country would be safer by only ‘a small percentage’ and would see ‘a very insignificant increase in safety’ if al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught because another terrorist would rise to power.”
At a press conference earlier this afternoon, President Obama addressed the issue in response to a question from a reporter:
As far as my personal role and what other folks would do, I just recommend that everybody take a look at people’s previous statements in terms of whether they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and take out bin Laden. I assumed that people meant what they said when they said it, that’s been at least my practice. I said that we’d go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him and I did. If there are others who have said one thing and now suggested they’d do something else, then I’d go ahead and let them explain it.
IN ONE SENTENCE: President Obama ordered the raid into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden — the very same thing Mitt Romney once publicly denounced then-candidate Obama for saying he would do.