President Barack Obama denied charges that he has improperly politicized the first anniversary of the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, declaring Monday, "I hardly think that you've seen any excessive celebration taking place here."
The Obama campaign has been criticized by Republicans for a campaign ad that implies Mitt Romney would not have ordered the surprise attack on Bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan compound. Senator John McCain called the ad "a cheap political attack."
"I think that people, the American people, rightly remember what we as a country accomplished in bringing to justice somebody who killed over 3,000 of our citizens," Obama said at a White House press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
"And it's a mark of the excellence of our intelligence teams, and our military teams, a political process that worked. And I think for us to use that time for some reflection, to give thanks to those who participated, is entirely appropriate. And that's what's been taking place," Obama said.
Romney, looking to play down Obama's decision to green-light the raid, said Monday that "even Jimmy Carter would have given that order." (In fact, Carter gave "that order," sending elite forces on a mission to rescue the American hostages in Iran, with disastrous results that helped cost him reelection.)
"As far as my personal role and what other folks would do, I'd just recommend that everybody take a look at people's previous statements in terms of whather they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and take out bin Laden," Obama said.
"I assume that people meant what they said when they said it," he told reporters. "That's been, at least, my practice. I said that I would go after Bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did. If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they would do something else, I'd go ahead and let them explain it."
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Romney criticized Obama for saying he would order American forces to go after Bin Laden, even on Pakistani soil. "I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours. … I don't think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort," Romney told reporters on the campaign trail. He specified that what he objected to was openly discussing such operations. Romney also said he would not move "heaven and earth" to get bin Laden, then underlined that he meant that the war on terrorism was not about just one man.
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul criticized Obama for trying to "use what was a good day for all Americans as a cheap political ploy and an opportunity to distort Governor Romney's strong policies on the war on terror."
"President Obama's feckless foreign policy has emboldened our adversaries, weakened our allies, and threatens to break faith with our military," she said. "Gov. Romney has always understood we need a comprehensive plan to deal with the myriad threats America faces."
The back-and-forth came one day before the ninth anniversary of George W. Bush's triumphant landing on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, where Bush declared "victory" in Iraq under a giant "Mission Accomplished" banner.
Democrats were apoplectic at the time. Republicans not only defended the move but made very much the same kinds of comments about John Kerry that they now decry when Obama makes them about Mitt Romney (Slate has compiled a list).
Update 5:21 pm: This post has been updated to add a reaction from Mitt Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.
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