Obama said he’d get bin Laden, Romney said it wasn’t important

Look, the dismay expressed by some about President Obama’s ad (see below) regarding the decision to send SEALs into Pakistan to try to kill bin Laden comes down to an attempt to rewrite a very basic fact:

Barack Obama said he’d get bin Laden, or at least try. He said it over and over again during the 2008 election. And others — including Romney — said they didn’t think that was important.

In his speech accepting the Democratic nomination, Obama drew the contrast on Iraq and bin Laden:

For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just “muddle through” in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell – but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.

In a presidential debate with John McCain, Obama promised to end the war in Iraq and go after bin Laden:

What I’ve said is we should end this war responsibly. We should do it in phases. But in 16 months we should be able to reduce our combat troops, put — provide some relief to military families and our troops and bolster our efforts in Afghanistan so that we can capture and kill bin Laden and crush al Qaeda.

And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaida. That has to be our biggest national security priority.

In contrast, this is what Romney and some others said:

“It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.” – Mitt Romney

Senator Obama likes to talk loudly. In fact, he said he wants to announce that he’s going to attack Pakistan. Remarkable. You know, if you are a country and you’re trying to gain the support of another country, then you want to do everything you can that they would act in a cooperative fashion. — John McCain

“I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority… I am truly not that concerned about him.” – George W. Bush

Not only do we see these differences, many complaints do seem to display a real double standard, since George W. Bush so clearly exploited September 11 for his political purposes — even as Obama has the advantage of accomplishment.

By the way: I completely agree with James Fallows that Romney is quite mistaken in how he uses President Carter as a symbol for a weak president. It’s insulting to Carter, a graduate of the Naval Academy who spent ten years in active service, and it overlooks the consequences of the call Carter made in trying to rescue the Iranian hostages.

In 2008, no one knew if Obama gutsy enough to send the U.S. military into Pakistan without that government’s permission. It turned out he was. In 2012, we have no evidence that Romney would have done what Obama did — and in fact, during the last presidential campaign, Governor Romney said he would not.

Here’s the ad:


Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.