President Obama responds to Mitt Romney’s claim that he would have given the order Obama did to launch the mission that ended in Bin Laden’s killing, and that even Jimmy Carter would have done the same:
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.
There’s been a lot of debate today over whether the Obama campaign has taken a big “risk” in making Bin Laden’s killing central to his case for reelection. I suppose there’s always the possibility that this strategy does contain political risks, and it also bears pointing out that Dems howled with outrage when George W. Bush made 9/11 central to his reelection campaign in 2004, though the differences in degree here seem obvious. Either way, I’ve previously expressed my own discomfort with too much White House chest thumping over Bin Laden’s death.
That said, it’s hard not to notice that there’s little to no discussion of whether Romney is taking a risk in attacking Obama over the Bin Laden killing, by arguing that touting his death is somehow inappropriate and that any other president would have done the same thing. Back in 2004 and 2006, when Republicans were showcasing George W. Bush’s war-on-terror routine as central to their case for reelection, and Dems were responding by attacking Republicans for politicizing national security and pointing to Bush’s failures, Dems were widely described as the ones taking the big political risk then, too.
We were told again and again during the 2004 and 2006 campaigns that Dems risked coming across as not rooting for American military success; there was little discussion of any danger for Republicans in playing up Bush’s “war president” routine. Now the situation, roughly, is reversed — and this time we’re talking about the Obama administration’s successful targeting of America’s number one global arch-enemy — yet again it’s Dems who are seen to be playing with political fire here.
At risk of overgeneralizing, this suggests that there’s still a strong built-in presumption of political dominance for Republicans on national security, and that any gains Dems have made on the issue are not deeply felt by Beltway establishment types.