But political analysts and Republican critics say Obama is taking a risk in claiming credit for something that as recently as his January State of the Union address he described as “a testament to the courage, selflessness and teamwork of America’s armed forces.”
In a series of videos and speeches leading up to the Wednesday anniversary of the raid, the Obama campaign, through high-profile proxies such as Vice President Biden and former president Bill Clinton, has made the president the star of the story. Biden and others have also suggested that Obama’s presumptive Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, would not have pursued bin Laden with the same determination.
“He deserves the right to crow about it a little, but he has to be careful, given how many other issues are out there, even on the counterterrorism front,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution.
O’Hanlon said that if there is a terrorist attack against the United States or other foreign policy failures before Election Day, “it would look odd in the midst of all this self-congratulation over bin Laden.”
“But if the election does turn on the economy, for a Democratic president, that’s already progress,” O’Hanlon continued. “To inoculate oneself against foreign policy attack should not be underrated as a political accomplishment.”
Obama campaigned four years ago on a pledge to end partisanship in Washington, and some analysts say the new focus he has placed on his role in the bin Laden killing may undermine that image in the minds of swing voters who proved decisive in 2008.
At the same time, Obama’s decision to authorize the raid over the objection of some key advisers could blunt Romney’s ongoing attempts to portray the president as weak abroad, even as Iran’s uranium enrichment program and Syria’s brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrators continue in the face of U.S. policy to end them.
Speaking at a White House news conference Monday alongside Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Obama said, “I hardly think you’ve seen any excessive celebration taking place here.”
“The American people rightly remember what we as a country accomplished in bringing to justice somebody who killed over 3,000 of our citizens,” he said. “And it’s a mark of the excellence of our intelligence teams and our military teams, a political process that worked. And I think for us to use that time for some reflection, to give thanks to those who participated, is entirely appropriate, and that’s what’s been taking place.”