Romney plays it safe with bin Laden
May 1st, 2012
11:11 PM ET
2 years ago

Romney plays it safe with bin Laden

Philadelphia (CNN) – Mitt Romney bit his tongue and played it safe. He waited until hours after the president’s speech from Afghanistan to release a statement on what was undoubtedly a turning point in the U.S. war against al Qaeda.

“I am pleased that President Obama has returned to Afghanistan. Our troops and the American people deserve to hear from our President about what is at stake in this war,” Romney said in the statement released late Tuesday night.

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Romney made no mention of the new security agreement that was signed by the president and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai exactly one year after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

In his statement, Romney simply warned of the consequences of failure in Afghanistan.

“It would be a tragedy for Afghanistan and a strategic setback for America if the Taliban returned to power and once again created a sanctuary for terrorists. We tolerated such a sanctuary until we lost thousands on September 11, 2001,” Romney said.

Romney’s restraint throughout the day showed a different side of the Republican contender. Gone were his usual pointed complaints about the president’s foreign policy. By appearances, he seemed to be letting the president have his moment.

At a brief news conference outside a New York City fire station, Romney was relatively gentle in his criticism of the president’s dramatic use of Monday’s White House news conference to draw a contrast with his expected general election rival.

"I'd just recommend that everybody take a look at people's previous statements in terms of whether they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and take out bin Laden,” the president said.

It was a clear reference to statements Romney made in 2007 when he questioned whether it was worth moving “heaven and earth” to take down the terrorist leader. The former Massachusetts governor later said he would do everything to bring bin Laden to justice.

"I think politicizing it and trying to draw a distinction between himself and myself was an inappropriate use of the very important event that brought America together, which was the elimination of Osama bin Laden,” Romney said at the New York news conference.

Romney said his comments in 2007 were intended to demonstrate prudence on the world stage.

“I would have made the same decision the president made,. which was to remove him," Romney told reporters.

He even gave credit where he felt it was due. “You know I think it’s totally appropriate for the president to express to the American people the view that he has… that he had an important role in taking out Osama bin Laden,” Romney added.

Romney has not always been this charitable. Last December in a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition, Romney delivered a blistering attack on the president’s foreign policy.

“Internationally, President Obama has adopted an appeasement strategy. Appeasement betrays a lack of faith in America, in American strength, and in America's future,” Romney said in the December speech.

The charge that Mr. Obama has shown weakness on the world stage dates back to the speech Romney used to kick off his 2012 presidential campaign. Romney said the president “traveled around the globe to apologize for America.” The fact-checking web site, PolitiFact, later rated Romney’s claim as “pants on fire.”

Romney has struck a noticeably more cautious public posture ever since the Obama re-election campaign released its controversial ad that questioned the Republican contender’s willingness to take out bin Laden.

For days, Romney and his campaign faced an image battle they could not win. As the president was on his way to Afghanistan, Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani were delivering pizzas to firefighters.

Romney did not join the few Republicans in Congress who questioned the timing of the president’s trip.

“The White House tells us it is a coincidence that POTUS is in Afghanistan on anniversary of OBL death,” tweeted Iowa Republican congressman Steve King. In his tweet, King referred to Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, a pioneer in pro-football end zone celebrations.

After his brief appearance with Giuliani, Romney attended two private fundraisers in the Philadelphia suburbs where he would stay away from the cameras for the remainder of the day.

The day’s political challenges were a reminder of the uphill battle Romney faces in removing a “war-time president.”

“It's the power of incumbency–accept it. Plus, election is still about the economy,” former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer tweeted earlier in the day.

Also see:

Michelle Obama swings West for fundraising push

Christie uses GOP star power to help embattled Walker

White House says Afghanistan trip not political


Filed under: 2012 • Afghanistan • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. jcm52

    "I'd just recommend that everybody take a look at people's previous statements in terms of whether they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and take out bin Laden,” the president said.

    It was a clear reference to statements Romney made in 2007 when he questioned whether it was worth moving “heaven and earth” to take down the terrorist leader.

    No... It was a clear reference to the fact that during the 2008 campaign the entire Republican party: McCain, Palin, Bush, Cheney, Boehner, etc said that Obama was naive and didn't understand foreign policy specifically because he had said if bin Laden were in Pakistan we would go in to get him.

    May 2, 2012 03:25 am at 3:25 am |
  2. Thomas

    Mitt Romney and sons act like seal team #6 on paintball safari !

    Mitt and sons all avoided military service.

    May 2, 2012 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  3. Yaw

    What class by this gentleman. Romney would make a fine president. God's speed on your journey.

    May 2, 2012 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  4. steve

    even his jeans look fake, like he is dressed up for Halloween

    May 2, 2012 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  5. Rosario

    It's best for Romney to keep his mouth shut if he has nothing good to say!!!

    May 2, 2012 03:40 am at 3:40 am |
  6. s

    Its to bad you don't believe a word you say, how do you sleep at night

    May 2, 2012 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  7. Atanu

    We went into Afghanistan out of necessity and anything short of "job done" will be embarrassing . Successive Presidents, no matter who they are would strive for "that only" and there's no room for politics to play any role. There might be change in strategy here or there but the goal remains. Thanks.

    May 2, 2012 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  8. First

    The race seems to be getting more civil

    May 2, 2012 04:47 am at 4:47 am |
  9. rickinmo

    Gee Mitt. Thanks for your approval of the president's trip but, I don't think he needs it.

    May 2, 2012 04:51 am at 4:51 am |
  10. rickinmo

    Republicans obviously don't understand the difference between apology and respecting the leaders of other countries, their cultures and customs. They think being the world bully is good foreign policy. W was an disgrace to our country and his style of foreign policy was a joke.

    May 2, 2012 04:57 am at 4:57 am |
  11. Jt_flyer

    I'm so happy that Romney is pleased with Obama's visit. I'd really hate to finally have disappointment enter Mitt's life a at his age.

    May 2, 2012 05:30 am at 5:30 am |
  12. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Rudy and Mitt McCain deliver pizzas to the same fireman who were denied healthcare by the unhinged party of NO,GOBP. Priceless.

    May 2, 2012 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  13. works4me

    He'd be a fool to step in this mitt.

    May 2, 2012 06:17 am at 6:17 am |
  14. kjswartz

    It is nice to see that credit is given where credit is due. What we forget is this was a difficult series of calls for President Obama to make. Satellite survey time over Pakistani military bases. Visual intelligence assets sent to perform ground surveys. Remember the Pakistani Doctor (who still remains imprisoned last that I heard) and his two nurses performing inoculations of a lot of households, not just Osama's house, and that did not yield positive results. The singularly useful intelligence was Osama's driver was observed many times at the property.

    I very much doubt Romney would have committed stealth assets to invade and positively identify Osama. A drone attack may be more his style. Given the high probability this was simply an innocent family's home, I doubt Romney's faith and conscience would permit probable murder.

    May 2, 2012 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  15. Anonymous

    Obama, "we" are trying to paint you as feckless and weak on foreign policy and as a commander in chief, so could you do us all a favor and stop reminding everyone of anything that runs counter to that narrative? It is not nice for you to mention getting Bin Laden. It is not fair for you to impose crippling sanctions on Iran, and possibly even authorize and attack on them. Just be a good democrat and let us land some political punches...and we will all respect you for being a "traditional democrat".

    May 2, 2012 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  16. Marie MD

    I believe he is running scared because no matter what he says or does he has already said it done it and then retracted it.

    May 2, 2012 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  17. T'sah from Virginia

    ►Romney made no mention of the new security agreement that was signed by the president and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai◄

    That is because if he did say something as a FLIP, tomorrow he will recant with a FLOP!!
    We are in Afghanistan with residual forces until 2024 but most of the troops will be out by 2014! What would MITTens say; I am sure President Obama had consultations with the generals – The ONLY thing MITTens knows about "foreign policy" – in addition to other facts our President must know. And, what will happen if MITTens is elected in 2012 (and that is a big IF) – will he carry the same torch passed on by President Obama? – Of course he would. So in reality, MITTens has nothing to say!!

    I am still trying to absorb this move by our President and for now, I will TRUST this decision.

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward

    May 2, 2012 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  18. Tom

    Couldn't think of anything stupid to say, Mitt?

    May 2, 2012 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  19. Marie MD

    The socio flip flopper is also waiting to see what the pundits and others say before he comes out with an opinion and then has to retract or pretend he never said it.
    Very presidential and leader like of him.

    May 2, 2012 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  20. Jeff in Virginia

    Translation from the RomneyBot: I'll attack Obama for whatever I want and I don't care if my positions change like the wind.

    Pathetic.

    May 2, 2012 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  21. Robert

    What would be a tragedy is for all the war mongering rich famillies to send there kids off to die in the wars they push so hard for. Let them profit off their own blood for a change.

    May 2, 2012 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  22. Jay

    Mitt has FLIP-FLOP-FEVER big time!

    May 2, 2012 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  23. Flipper Rmoney Failure Ahead

    Rmoney is sad and pathetic. He can't even keep his messaging consistent, let alone begin with a sane and appealing message. Can't wait for Flipper Dukakis to jump the shark and play GI Joe dress up. No doubt Ann will deem him wild and crazy when he does.

    May 2, 2012 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  24. 40 acres

    >>>“The White House tells us it is a coincidence that POTUS is in Afghanistan on anniversary of OBL death,” tweeted Iowa Republican congressman Steve King.<<<

    Yeah, why would the Whitehouse want to advertise an agreement that basically ends the war in Afghanistan and lets the troops know they have a light at the end of the tunnel on the anniversary of the day our reason for the war was eliminated? I doubt it was a coincidence, I'm thinking more symbolic. Good call Whitehouse.

    May 2, 2012 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  25. Mike

    Hey Mitt, the price tag's still dangling from your K-Pod... also your magazine's loaded backwards (the pointy end goes toward the enemy).

    May 2, 2012 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
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