It's May 1. And in case you weren't around 365 days ago, it was on this day last year that Osama Bin Laden was reportedly killed, holed up in a Pakistan compound. Now one would expect that Americans can pause a second to remember May 1 as the day we killed the guy who orchestrated 9-11 and have that be that.
And I suppose it's expected, and therefore well and good, that the Administration who made the call to raid the Pakistan compound would take a second or two out of its day to put out some positive "remember this" PR. Instead the Obama Campaign decided to weigh in on the decision as well, launching a seven-minute ad wherein former President Bill Clinton speaks of President Obama's courageous decision (to give the order to kill Bin Laden) before going on to suggest that the President's chief political rival Mitt Romney, might not have made the call. In fact Joe Biden went so far as to say if Romney were president, it's likely that Bin Laden might still be alive today. Barack Obama in a sort of "response" to Romney's recent statement that, "even Jimmy Carter would have given that order" reacted the same way his campaign did, citing an 2007 Romney statement where the Massachusetts Governor answered a question about expanding the global war on terror to Pakistan to capture or kill high-valued targets despite (essentially) violating Pakistan's sovereignty. (more on this later)
When asked about what the White House might be doing to celebrate the anniversary-of-sorts, President Obama insisted they might not be "spiking the football" that there would be no "excessive celebration." Queue the anti-Romney context of the Obama camp's ad, and the response in the speech that followed and poof! You have a budding talking point on your hand.
My take on this whole "controversy" is simple. It proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is not the 2008 Obama campaign. Instead of using soaring rhetoric to talk about himself and his future actions or gloat about what he had already done, or even when attacking the opposition, the 2012 campaign has already made the decision to go full-on negative.
Now word has it that Obama may appear shortly for a "surprise" visit in Afghanistan. If this turns out to be the case, and he gives a pump-them-up speech to a group of our troops and includes just about anything referring to himself re: Bin Laden, I think it's fair to say that despite the noble intention of the gesture on the whole, we can categorize the trip and the speech as at least a small "spike" of the "football."
What was wrong with sticking to his first response on this and just thanking the Navy SEALs who made it all possible, that the world is a better place without Bin Laden alive, with a bit of light pat-yourself-on-the-back tossed in for good measure? To me, that's what a leader might have done, but as I explained recently leaders show leadership. They don't gloat about decisions-no matter how big or consequential they may end up being, and they certainly don't frame the context of their decisions in terms of how someone else might have made the decision.
Romney's response in 2007 was in response to question regarding Obama's previous statement about going into Pakistan to capture high-valued targets without them knowing, but the scope of the actual question was along the lines of, "are you OK going into the sovereign nations of our allies to do something like this." Romney hedged, saying that he thought it was potentially a bad idea to be expanding the war on terror into the nations of our allies without letting them know first. In light of the Bin Laden raid, sure, it looks as if given Romney's response to that question, one might conjure up the notion that he may have said no to the Bin Laden raid.
The problem is, it ignores the sheer complexity of the (then) hypothetical scenario that we were actually presented with a year ago. You know? That same complexity that is the reason (according to Bill Clinton) that we should be praising Obama for? If Romney was asked, "if you got a call that said, we're nearly 100 percent sure Bin Laden is in this compound in Pakistan, and this tactical operation is one we can manage without the world knowing about until you break it to everyone, would you go into Pakistan to kill Bin Laden."
This is just one of many instances to come in this campaign where the candidates will have their previous statements taken out of context by each other or their surrogates to score political points. The only glaring thing to come out of this "I'm more of a sure thing when it comes to killing top terrorists than he might be" shtick coming from Obama and his campaign, is that 2008 Obama is as dead as Osama Bin Laden, and Obama 2012 is fully prepared to run a Chicago-style bruising campaign.