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. Blindersoff

    Stand down son, Obama got this! 🙂

    May 1, 2012 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  2. Tired of the republican lies

    He'd better shut up...Romney has no strategy, no plans, no ideas...yeah he'd better shut up and sit all of this out, because he knows he is out done...roflmao!!!!

    May 1, 2012 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  3. B

    Damage control.

    May 1, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  4. vic , nashville ,tn

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

    From day one Obama focus on Bin Laden capture, in 2008 Romney didn’t have intention or goal but 2008 Obama said clear in the debate “I will take OBL if he lived in Pakistan”

    May 1, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  5. G

    Romney's praise of President Obama visiting the troops in Afghanistan is meaningless. He is trying to minimize or offset the damage to his public image and his credibility as a presidential candidate caused by his controversial remarks regarding Osama bin Laden being not worth moving heaven and earth to catch, and his criticism of President Obama's foreign policy. Romney's campaign is in full damage control mode.

    May 2, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  6. kmac

    Appeasement? Who is being appeased? Look how many Moslem dictators that have been a thorn in our butt are gone or in trouble now. Romney is a idot if thinks the US and the world is prepared for a war against Iraq. He can't simply fire someone and have security show them the door in this office. Someone has to die. I didn't think Obama was aware of those things when he ran but I appear to be wrong. I've come to conclusion every American death must strike deeply in him.

    May 2, 2012 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  7. CBR

    What was he waiting for? One minute he is bashing Obama and the next he is being quiet. Was his trip to NY to bring pizzas to firemen any less of a political stunt? Please, can we all just grow up and act like adults. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Now that would be different.

    May 2, 2012 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  8. mfv

    Mr Romney is very calculating in remarks. Timing it to the beat of the times and very cautious he might misspoke – flip and flop again. I seem to look at him as a guy who does does not foresee the future, the aftermath of the situation when he speak in the present tense. By intense scrutiny, looks like he has no core.

    May 2, 2012 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  9. 4Him

    The timing if the President's trip is being questioned by Republicans? Should we stop the government because it is election year? The president has full power under the constitution when it comes to foreign policy. In my opinion we should have never taken our troupes into this tribal feudalistic ashtray of a country. However this Commander in Chief Obama did order our troups to kill Bin Ladin. Why are we still there?

    May 2, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  10. NotFooledByDistractions

    It'd probably be best if Romney learned to hold his tongue more often. I find his responses most times to be contradictory, distortions of the truth, sophomoric and just tiresome. I guess that's just the natural reaction of a desperate man with no true principles or convictions.

    May 2, 2012 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  11. Anonymous

    What can he say...he's clueless.

    May 2, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  12. Joseph

    This news doesn't sound good for Mit Romney. His flip flopping his coming back to haunt him. Good Luck
    Praise to God of Abrahma, Jacob and Issac. Bless President Barrack Hussein Obama and God Bless the USA.

    May 2, 2012 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  13. waikikijohn

    Poor Mitt is left speechless.

    May 2, 2012 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  14. Ken in NC

    I agree that President apologized a lot around the world. I'm told that before each terrorist was taken out, an apology was issued for the mess the blast was about to make hehehe. "SCRATCH ANOTHER BAD GUY". hehehe

    May 2, 2012 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  15. FED up

    Obama just "contracted" our military out like some security firm. THIS HAS GONE WAY TO FAR!!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!! Our marines are NOT mall cops. I personally am beyond offended as I'm sure our military is to. Bring on the impeachment!!!

    May 2, 2012 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  16. julien vergara

    I salute mr romey. Play with the music

    May 2, 2012 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  17. Thomas

    are you kidding me? this should be in an opinion piece. what a joke trying to sell this as an objective piece. your words, insinuations, etc. are pathetically prejudiced. why don't you just get on your knees for obama

    May 2, 2012 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  18. Matt

    Romney just isn't a war-time consigliere

    May 2, 2012 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  19. A not-so-stupid former republican

    Romney realized that this was a battle he couldn't win and wisely kept his mouth shut!

    May 2, 2012 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  20. J.V.Hodgson

    THe vast majority of Romneys comments about Obama on Foreign policy fall in to a category of :" pants on fire" but in two separate ways:-
    1) When he is criticising Obama policy/ actions he is often/mostly ourageously inaccurate QED pants on fire.
    2) He makes opposing comments on policies of the whole administration on foreign policy by rote, not reason, the latter because he still cannot know all the details used by HRC or BHO and the variuos agencies briefing the President as that information is TOP secret and specifically not to be discussed outside limited oversight commitees and personnel. QED pants on fire again for me because he cannot possibly have enough data/ information to criticise other than ideologically, which he never says, he just says effectively; wrong again and is usually very light on reasonably argued logic.

    May 2, 2012 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  21. pee

    Anything that was said is said so some people needs to be quiet.

    May 2, 2012 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  22. Andrew Pierre

    My opinion is that, I truly think Obama is more focus on the lower class,the poor, helping America to get a better future and make sure that students succeed in life, but romney is more focus on making the rich get richer ; that's my opinion.

    May 2, 2012 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  23. snowdogg

    “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."

    Oh yes, we should always threaten and bluster to "get our way" with other countries... worked for the 2nd Bush administration.

    May 2, 2012 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  24. name face here

    Eh. His campaign probably said he was being too negative. What, ran out of venom, snake?

    May 2, 2012 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  25. Tony in STL

    Romney is such a loser! Still following(bracketing) the President. We'll see how that works out.

    May 2, 2012 03:09 am at 3:09 am |
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