On May 1, 2011, President Obama addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House to announce that the United States had killed Osama bin Laden.
Now, one year later, with the presidential campaigns in full swing, the Navy SEAL operation that killed the al-Qaeda leader has found its way to the center of a quickly intensifying political battle between Obama and the GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney (R).
On Tuesday, Romney criticized as “silly” a video released late last week in which the Obama campaign questioned whether a President Romney would have authorized the raid that killed bin Laden.
“Of course I would have,” Romney said on CBS’s “This Morning.” “Any thinking American would have ordered the exact same thing. ... The idea to try and politicize this, ‘Oh, President Obama would have done it one way, Mitt Romney would have done it another,’ is really disappointing.”
“Let’s not make the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden a politically divisive event,” he added.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Romney marked the occasion of bin Laden’s death by congratulating Obama and noting that the mission “was the culmination of nearly a decade of hard work and sacrifice by our men and women in the military and intelligence communities.”
“I commend all those who planned and conducted the bin Laden raid, and I applaud President Obama for giving the go ahead for the mission,” he said.
The sparring over the Obama campaign video comes as some influential voices — including former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — have spoken out against politicizing the raid that killed bin Laden.
“I do worry a great deal that this time of year that somehow this gets spun into election politics,” Mullen said in an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams set to air Wednesday night. “I can assure you that those individuals who risk their lives — the last thing in the world that they want is to be spun into that. So I’m hoping that that doesn’t happen.”
Obama did not shy away from speaking of the raid in political terms when asked about it during a joint availability with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
And on Tuesday, his campaign renewed its offensive against Romney with a new ad slamming the former Massachusetts governor from a different angle, hitting him for his tenure at Bain Capital and his own personal wealth.
“As a corporate CEO, he shipped American jobs to places like Mexico and China,” the ad says of Romney. “As governor, he outsourced state jobs to a call center in India. He’s still pushing tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. It’s just what you’d expect from a guy who had a Swiss bank account.”
The ad is slated to air in a trio of swing states — Iowa, Ohio and Virginia — the latter two of which Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are expected to visit on Saturday to kick off their first official rallies of the general election.
Romney’s campaign shot back on Tuesday that the ad is just an attempt by Obama to distract from the real issue, the president’s stewardship of the economy over the past three years.
“With the worst job creation record in modern history and the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, President Obama is trying to distract Americans from the real issues with a series of sideshows,” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement. “Unable to defend his failed record of 23 million Americans struggling for work, wasteful boondoggles like Solyndra, skyrocketing national debt, and unacceptably high energy prices, President Obama has once again resorted to attacking Mitt Romney. The American people have suffered enough over the last three years and deserve better.”