Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to understand the myriad considerations that went into President Obama’s decision to carry out the special operations raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. An ad put out by the Obama re-election campaign highlighting the president’s decision to strike into Pakistani territory to kill Bin Laden sparked a furor by questioning whether Romney would have made the same call.
Since the ad appeared, Romney, his surrogates, and so-called independent groups like the nouvelle swift-boaters have all rehashed the same dubious line in Romney’s defense: That any American president (or “any thinking American”) would have ordered the bin Laden raid. Just last night on Sean Hannity’s Fox News Channel show, Romney yet again issued this defense:
ROMNEY: But if the president wants to remind people of his decision, well, that’s entirely appropriate. But I think it was a big mistake for the president to try to make in this a political event by suggesting that I would not have done the same thing. I mean, frankly, Sean, almost any American in the position of presidency hearing that Osama bin Laden could have been taken out would have certainly pressed the button and said: get rid of the guy.
HANNITY: Oh, absolutely.
ROMNEY: And of course I would have.
Watch the video:
However, Romney and his allies’ repeated responses to the ad that “any thinking American” would have ordered the raid don’t account for the actual events surrounding Obama’s call.
- Romney assumes that Obama was 100 percent sure bin Laden was at the compound in Pakistan. However, the intelligence was far from certain:
- “There wasn’t any direct evidence that he was there. It was all circumstantial.” — Robert Gates
- “The circumstantial case of Iraq having WMD (weapons of mass destruction) was actually stronger than the circumstantial case that bin Laden is living in the Abbottabad compound.” — CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell
- “Ultimately, it was a 50/50 proposition as to whether this was actually bin Laden.” — President Obama
- Romney thinks that anyone would have ordered the raid based on his assumption that bin Laden’s whereabouts were known. In fact, Vice President Biden and Robert Gates opposed a special operations assault that the president ultimately decided on, particularly because of uncertainty as to whether bin Laden was at the compound.
- Romney claimed that “we haven’t heard all the different military options there were” for the bin Laden raid. But various reports have outlined a number of courses of action Obama could have taken. “Most were variations of either a JSOC raid or an airstrike. Some versions included cooperating with the Pakistani military; some did not,” the New Yorker reported.
In an analogous choice in 2005, George W. Bush and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld decided not to strike at senior Al Qaeda commanders in Pakistan because of the potential risk to relations with the notoriously sensitive country. When Obama said in his first presidential campaign that he would strike in Pakistan to get bin Laden, McCain criticized him as irresponsible. Romney echoed this concern when he said in August 2007, “I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours.”