Romney plays it safe with bin Laden
May 1st, 2012
11:11 PM ET
11 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. nolongerarepublican

    Hey Romney, the circus called you, they want their funniest clown back.

    May 2, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  2. Gurgyl

    This guy is a joker...what did these guys do when Russia invaded and Bin Laden was supported during republican regime in 80s? Don't we remember GOP supported these thugs? Where is foreign policy?

    May 2, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  3. XXXX

    Obama whacking Osama Bin Laden was one of the gutsiest calls by a Commander in Chief in history. Does anyone seriously believe that Romney, the flip flopper in chief, who can't make a decision about any issue whatsoever and is all over the place with everything and who criticized Obama for saying he would hunt Bin Laden down in Pakistan would make a decision like this? Romney is the GOP's Neville Chamberlain.

    May 2, 2012 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  4. Cfrench

    Romney's a calculating schemer, a trait second only to his flip-flopping ability.

    May 2, 2012 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  5. king

    Romney and the repubs are mad as hell, that they are not doing the Jimmy carter failure victory lap. Only one thing different, they probably would have had this president up for impeachment proceedings, "look at what they are doing to his attorney general, trying to blame him for the bush weapon laundering to Mexico". These repubs planed to destroy this president in a hotel, the same day he was inaugorated, and have obstructed everything he tried to lift this economy out of the worst situation, since the great depression. They know it, the American people knows it, that if this mission was a failure, and these seals were killed, Obama would be way worst than Jimmy Carter, and way worst than his attorney general, they are trying to fire, as they cover up bush dumb policy of laundering money to the Mexican cartel, just because 1 agent got killed. I wonder what it would be like if the whole seal team was killed.

    May 2, 2012 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  6. maximusvad

    Well Mitt is struggling with the Independent vote so he will walk on eggshells on certain the Independents will be deciding this next election.

    May 2, 2012 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  7. Lucky18

    Romney needs to button up and get his facts straight...The man knows nothing of Foreign policy. He's being spoon fed by...OMG, they just fired their foreign policy advisor...Do-over!!!

    May 2, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  8. Lucky18

    Didn't Romney just fire his "foreign policy advisor"?

    May 2, 2012 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  9. steve

    Romney in November.

    May 2, 2012 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
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