FORT STEWART, Ga. – President Obama, emphasizing his role as commander in chief, released a campaign video on Friday that heralds the administration’s successful
attack on Osama bin Laden last year and questions whether Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney would have pursued the same course.
In the video, entitled “One Chance,” former president Bill Clinton praises the “decider-in-chief” for ordering the Navy SEAL raid on bin Laden’s compound. The one-year anniversary of the raid is next week.
“Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?” the ad asks.
During the 2008 campaign, the video notes, Romney criticized Obama for promising to consider drone strikes in Pakistan and said of bin Laden: “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth, spending billions of dollars, just trying to catch one person.”
The new message, seeking to exploit Obama’s national security credentials, came as the president addressed thousands of uniformed members of the Army’s Third Infantry Division.
Obama also signed an executive order cracking down on for-profit colleges that prey on service members. At the same time, Romney met with students in Ohio to discuss college debt and warn that the United States is “on track to becoming Greece” — the latest sign that the general election is kicking off with a focus on the concerns of young voters.
The measure Obama signed is aimed at preventing schools from collecting tuition dollars from veterans without providing meaningful education in return.
Joined by first lady Michelle Obama, Obama told some 10,300 soldiers that for-profit schools swindle veterans, harassing them with repeated phone calls and e-mails and promising them job placement without delivering.
He told of one college recruiter who visited a barracks at Camp Lejeune and signed up troops suffering from brain injuries.
“That’s appalling. That’s disgraceful. That should never happen in America,” he said.
The executive order, he said, will “make life a whole lot more secure for you and your families and our veterans and a whole lot tougher for those who try to prey on you.”
The order directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to trademark the term “GI Bill,” to make it easier for the government to crack down on for-profit groups that deceptively use the term to enroll veterans.
It will also require the 6,000 colleges that participate in the GI Bill to provide veterans a “Know Before You Owe” document that more transparently explains how much debt they will take on to complete their degree. It will make it easier for service members to register complaints and for implicated institutions to be kept off of military installations.
The Washington Post Co. operates for-profit schools through its Kaplan subsidiary.
Obama’s action was praised by veterans groups, although the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities called it “deeply unfortunate,” saying that it was already in talks with veterans organizations and lawmakers about the concerns.
Hours after Obama signed the executive order, Romney addressed a crowd of several hundred students and faculty members at Otterbein University, a small liberal arts college northeast of Columbus, Ohio. He delivered a 40-minute speech, flanked by about 50 students who listened respectfully — if not with overwhelming enthusiasm.
Romney charged that Obama has been responsible for “the most anemic and tepid recovery we’ve seen since Hoover” and told students that when they listen to candidates they should “consider not just the brilliance of their words but also the facts of their record and of what they’ve done.”
“You will hear words from people running for office that sound great, but sometimes what people say is not a perfect example of what they’re going to do,” he said. “Sometimes, appearances do not conform with the facts or reality or track records.”
Romney counseled students to pay attention to the country’s ballooning debt. “There is no doubt in my mind that if this president were to be reelected, we will ultimately face a Greece-like setting, where people will wonder whether they want to loan money to America, and loan money to America at low interest rates,” he said.
Beforehand, Romney and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) huddled with seven students over burgers and Cokes to talk about their post-college prospects.
Romney, who studied English as an undergraduate, appeared to warn students against pursuing an English degree without further graduate study. “As an English major, your options are — you’d better go to graduate school and find a job from there,” he said.
In a related move, the Republican-led House on Friday adopted a GOP-authored plan to pay for lower student rates with money set aside for preventative health care programs in the federal health care overhaul. The White House has pledged to veto the proposal, which is unlikely to be taken up by the Democratic-led Senate.
Romney took his campaign to a college campus in Ohio where, joined by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), he held a small roundtable with half a dozen students and delivered a speech in which he directly blamed the president for saddling young people with debt, warning that the United States is “on track to becoming Greece.”
The dueling events came on the heels of an appearance this week by the president on Jimmy Fallon’s late-night comedy show as well as a three-state college-campus swing during which he urged Congress to pass a plan to freeze federal student loan rates. Romney on Monday joined Obama in throwing his weight behind the goal of freezing loan rates, although he has not specified how he would like to see the cost of the freeze offset.
Staff writer Steve Vogel contributed to this report. Sonmez reported from Ohio.