Spiking the bin Laden Football

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on April 27, 2012

So, when I wrote that Team Romney had better get ready for an ugly and divisive campaign from the Obamaphiles, I wasn’t kidding. And I guess that the president is not quite a man of his word:

This latest ad contradicts President Obama’s own pledge after he took out bin Laden. “You know, we don’t trot out this stuff as trophies,” Obama told CBS soon after the terrorist mastermind had been taken out. He added: “Americans and people around the world are glad that he’s gone. But we don’t need to spike the football.”

With the Obama campaign’s latest ad, it’s pretty safe to say that the president is now OK with “trot[ting] out this stuff” and “spik[ing] the football,” as long as it helps him get reelected.

Kudos to the Romney campaign for pushing back:

Mitt Romney’s campaign responds with this statement from press secretary Andrea Saul: “The killing of Osama bin Laden was a momentous day for all Americans and the world, and Governor Romney congratulated the military, our intelligence agencies, and the President. It’s now 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. With 23 million Americans struggling for work, our national debt soaring, and household budgets being squeezed like never before, Mitt Romney is focused on strengthening America at home and abroad.”

One thing that I would hope we might all agree on is the proposition that just about any president in the mainstream of American politics–whether a Democrat or a Republican–would have decided to take out Osama bin Laden if he/she felt there was a chance to do so. Implying, therefore, that Romney would not have sought to kill bin Laden if the opportunity presented itself is more than a little despicable. Need people be reminded of what then-Senator Obama said about this issue back in 2008?

The Democrats have a new attack on Mitt Romney: Obama killed Osama Bin Laden, and we don’t know what Mitt Romney would have done, as Joe Biden put it Thursday.

The Obama campaign is drawing in particular on a 2007 comment Romney made to the AP, saying “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth, spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”

But in 2008 Obama likewise thought killing the 9/11 mastermind wasn’t a necessity saying the United States would have to be careful Bin Laden didn’t become a “martyr.”

“What would be important would be for us to do it in a way that allows the entire world to understand the murderous acts that he’s engaged in and not to make him into a martyr, and to assure that the United States government is abiding by basic conventions that would strengthen our hand in the broader battle against terrorism,” Obama said as he unveiled his new national security team in June 2008.

Obama later concluded that killing Bin Laden, and dumping his body at sea, were the best ways to deprive his followers of a focal point. But the comments reflect a possible flaw in attacking Mitt Romney’s statement on Bin Laden. While there is a degree of uncertainty to what Romney would have done, the same could be said for candidate Obama in 2008.

Later on in the campaign, then-Senator Obama said that he would kill bin Laden if presented with the opportunity. And of course, he did so. What makes Team Obama so confident that Romney would not have done the same thing, and given Barack Obama’s onetime refusal to make bin Laden a martyr, who is he to say what might have happened if Romney were in charge? Barack Obama departed from his original line about not wanting to make a martyr out of bin Laden, and ordered the Navy SEALs to kill bin Laden when presented with the opportunity to do so. Why should anyone believe that Romney would not have taken that same decision if he had the chance to do so?

This nonsense is as intellectually insulting as it is silly, and it is yet another sign that the Obama campaign wants desperately to distract from any talk about the economy, which of course Romney is right to point out in his response. And John McCain is right to call shenanigans on this shameless effort to politicize the fight against terrorists and terrorist organizations, and to point out that Barack Obama is doing precisely what he once criticized Hillary Clinton for doing–trying to use bin Laden to “score political points.”

UPDATE: In utterly non-shocking news, the Romney quote was taken massively out of context. Attention fact-checkers: It’s time to do your jobs and to call shenanigans on the Obama campaign’s ad. Loudly.

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