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:
In April 2007, Romney said, “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.” Last May, President Obama ordered the raid that killed bin Laden and last week, the Obama campaign produced a video highlighting the president’s decision, while noting Romney’s 2007 comments.
The Romney campaign attacked the ad, claiming it was trying to “divide” the country.” And this morning on CBS’s The Early Show, the Romney campaign got an unexpected supporter, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington:
HUFFINGTON: I agree completely — I agree with the Romney campaign. I think that using the Osama bin Laden assassination, killing the great news that we had a year ago in order to say basically that Obama did it and Romney might not have done it, which is the message. … I don’t think there should be an ad about that. … [T]o turn it into a campaign ad is one of the most despicable things you can do. It’s the same thing that Hillary Clinton did with the 3 a.m. call. You know, you are not ready to be commander-in-chief. […]
HOST: In a campaign aren’t you supposed to tout the accomplishments of what you’ve done?
HUFFINGTON: But this is not just what this ad did, does. What the ad does is questions, if we’re talking about the same ad. … It quotes a snippet from Romney in ’07 and uses that to imply that Romney would not have been decisive. There’s no way to know whether Romney would have been as decisive. And to actually speculate that he wouldn’t be is to me not the way to run campaigns on either side.
Watch the clip:
Huffington doesn’t seem to think it’s fair to speculate what Romney would have done as president based on what Romney said he would (or in this case wouldn’t) do. But the ad is stating two basic facts. One, that Obama ordered the raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader and two, that Romney said in 2007 that he wouldn’t have done the same. So is it really “despicable” to wonder whether a President Romney would have ordered the raid on bin Laden given that he said he wouldn’t do it while campaigning for president?
Romney commented on the issues at a campaign event today:
On ropeline, Romney says “of course” he would have given bin Laden order: “even Jimmy Carter would have given that order”
— Rachel Streitfeld (@streitfeldcnn) April 30, 2012
Bush passed on a similar mission to capture “senior members of Al Qaeda” in 2005 because “it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan.”