Video: Obama kinda sorta accuses Romney of flip-flopping on Bin Laden

posted at 5:23 pm on April 30, 2012 by Allahpundit

Not really a fair cop — read Morgen’s post yesterday for essential context — but the White House wants to push both the “Romney is more conservative than Barry Goldwater” message and the “Romney stands for nothing” message this fall, no matter how incoherent that might be. So here’s O taking an easy shot at the latter.

Asked about Romney’s comments from earlier this morning belittling how difficult the decision to go after bin Laden may have been, the president said “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 whether they thought it was appropriate to go into Pakistan and take out bin Laden. I assume that people meant what they said when they said it. That’s been at least my practice.”

The president was alluding to Romney’s 2007 comments about bin Laden that “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.” The Obama campaign last Friday released a web ad suggestion that this sentence suggests he would not have been willing to take the risk and order Navy SEALs to cross into Pakistan and infiltrate bin Laden’s Abbotabad compound…

The Romney campaign argues that his 2007 comments about “not moving heaven and earth” to get bin Laden are being unfairly twisted by the president, that the full context indicates that he was saying the war against the extremist Islamist movement was bigger than just one man – not that he wouldn’t go after that one man. According to the Associated Press’s Liz Sidoti, Romney said capturing bin Laden would made the U.S. safer by only “a small percentage” resulting in “a very insignificant increase in safety” since someone else would take bin Laden’s place. Romney supported a broader strategy against.

I explained in the last post why Romney (and Jimmy Carter) would have given the order to go grab Bin Laden given the state of Pakistani treachery circa 2011, so go read that if you haven’t. All I’ll add here is that I’m surprised Obama’s passing on an opportunity to tout his broader record on counterterrorism for a cheap knock on Romney the flip-flopper. Romney’s point in context is that the war on terror is bigger than one man. Indeed, O could say, which is why over the past four years he’s ramped up drone strikes in Pakistan, resulting in the near-collapse of “core Al Qaeda.” WaPo reported within the past week that not only has the drone campaign been extended to Yemen, Obama’s given Petraeus and the CIA authority to fire without first confirming the identity of whom they’re firing at. Why forfeit an excuse to talk about all that? “Bin Laden week” at the White House should be an occasion to tout broader progress against AQ, not syrupy reminiscences about who said what to whom in the situation room once they got the news about “Geronimo.” By making it purely about OBL, he’s risking minimizing his own accomplishment in the minds of low-information voters.

Exit question via the Washington Free Beacon’s Andrew Stiles: When O says “I assume that people meant what they said when they said it,” does that also apply to the various nonsense he spouted on the trail in 2008? Opposing the mandate, ridding his administration of lobbyists, civilian trials for terrorists, etc etc. Back before he tore up the War Powers Act, he was a pretty peace-minded guy, you know. See Peter Kirsanow’s post at the Corner for more examples.

Update: Lefty Josh Marshall says the White House chatter about Bin Laden is less a matter of politics than meta-politics:

But as I first argued back in 2004, national political campaigns are only loosely about ‘issues’ as news obsessives construe them. Contemporary American campaigns are much more meta-battles over power, masculinity and dominance, what I once called “bitch-slap politics.” Not pretty perhaps but you’ll never understand campaigns without understanding things through this prism. And that’s very much what’s happening with the Obama campaign’s latest fusillade against Mitt Romney. This isn’t simply – maybe not even mainly — about the actual decision to risk so much to kill bin Laden. It’s a dance to – let’s not run away from what it really is – unman Romney in his contest with the president.

People don’t expect Democrats to make such brash moves on national security politics. It’s been a very long time since a Democratic president has been in a position to do it. Its aforementioned obviousness aside, it’s garnered a collective gasp from the pundit class. It was a smack right across the face of Mitt Romney right as he’s making a reasonably successful reintroduction of himself to the American people.


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My entire complaint is about whittling down going after bin Laden specifically to a cost-benefit analysis. That’s what I’ve said since the beginning, and what I’ll continue to say now.

Now, other folks have tried to expand every military decision (not something Romney has argued for) to a cost-benefit analysis. That tangent is where I’m continuing to fight them, but if you’d like to bring it back to the more narrow original topic, then by all means, let’s.

Stoic Patriot on April 30, 2012 at 9:20 PM

Romney did not do anything of the kind. You continue to make this comment and it is simply not true. You are obtuse.

Romney is right, of course, that even Jimmy Carter would have authorized bin Laden’s killing once our military and intelligence agencies had tracked him down. But what is Obama talking about when he refers to something Romney ostensibly once said about not killing bin Laden? If you missed the origin of this controversy, it comes from an Obama campaign commercial that heaps credit on Obama for Seal Team Six’s raid on Obama’s house, and suggests that Romney wouldn’t have authorized the mission. The Romney quote is, “It’s not worth moving heaven and Earth, spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.” Of course, Romney didn’t say what Obama now claims he did–that, if we knew bin Laden’s whereabouts and were prepared to kill him, Romney would decline to authorize the mission. Within a few days after the speech from which the quoted sentence came, Romney was asked about it in a presidential debate:

Romney: Thank you. Of course we get Osama bin Laden and track him wherever he has to go, and make sure he pays for the outrage he exacted upon America.

Moderator: Can we move heaven and earth to do it?

Romney: We’ll move everything to get him. But I don’t want to buy into the Democratic pitch that this is all about one person — Osama bin Laden — because after we get him, there’s going to be another and another.

This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and Al Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is a worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate.

They ultimately want to bring down the United States of America.

This is a global effort we’re going to have to lead to overcome this jihadist effort. It’s more than Osama bin Laden.

But he is going to pay, and he will die.

That quote is from Powerline.

Terrye on April 30, 2012 at 9:26 PM

Romney did not do anything of the kind. You continue to make this comment and it is simply not true. You are obtuse.

You are a liar. It’s precisely what he indicated by saying it wasn’t worth spending billions and moving heaven and earth to go after one guy. English doesn’t get much simpler than that, and I don’t think you’re so obtuse that you can’t figure that out.

Of course, Romney didn’t say what Obama now claims he did–that, if we knew bin Laden’s whereabouts and were prepared to kill him, Romney would decline to authorize the mission.

Terrye on April 30, 2012 at 9:26 PM

Here’s the ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYykD6_OHO0

I think that using that as a return criticism is fine, based on the setup and Clinton’s use of the word “path” that precedes the question given. It’s also a hell of a lot better defense than what’s been presented thus far.

Stoic Patriot on April 30, 2012 at 9:33 PM

Stoic Patriot on April 30, 2012 at 9:33 PM

The fact that I think you are full of crap does not make me a liar and I will meet your quote and raise with the one above…read it and weep moron. Romney makes it plain that he is not refusing to go after Osama and he makes it plain that he was referring to the contention that this fight is all about Osama…if you are not able to understand that then I guess that means your Aspergers is kicking in. I bet you can not understand metaphors either.

Once again, from Romney:

Romney: Thank you. Of course we get Osama bin Laden and track him wherever he has to go, and make sure he pays for the outrage he exacted upon America.

Moderator: Can we move heaven and earth to do it?

Romney: We’ll move everything to get him. But I don’t want to buy into the Democratic pitch that this is all about one person — Osama bin Laden — because after we get him, there’s going to be another and another.

This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and Al Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is a worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate.

They ultimately want to bring down the United States of America.

This is a global effort we’re going to have to lead to overcome this jihadist effort. It’s more than Osama bin Laden.

But he is going to pay, and he will die.

Terrye on April 30, 2012 at 9:38 PM

The fact that I think you are full of crap does not make me a liar and I will meet your quote and raise with the one above…read it and weep moron.

No, deliberately ignoring the meaning of plain English makes you a liar.

Romney makes it plain that he is not refusing to go after Osama and he makes it plain that he was referring to the contention that this fight is all about Osama…if you are not able to understand that then I guess that means your Aspergers is kicking in. I bet you can not understand metaphors either.

And here you’re again being dishonest by introducing what we call in rhetoric, a false dilemma. Yes, he said that the fight was not all about Osama. And while he was doing it, he simultaneously diminished the importance of bin Laden. I even proposed my own rhetorical solution to get him out of that. But hey, let’s ignore that, right?

Your Romney quote is a fine position. It also wouldn’t be the first time Romney’s changed a position, either.

What’s sad is that you’re so blinded by your devotion to Romney that you can’t admit that he made a gaffe.

Stoic Patriot on April 30, 2012 at 9:42 PM

Terrye on April 30, 2012 at 9:38 PM

Just like Stoic knows military strategy better than Eisenhower, he knows what Romney means better than Romney… or the English words Romney uses.

Ampersand on April 30, 2012 at 9:44 PM

Just like Stoic knows military strategy better than Eisenhower, he knows what Romney means better than Romney… or the English words Romney uses.

Ampersand on April 30, 2012 at 9:44 PM

Hey, with Romney, regardless of what position you say he has, you almost know for sure you’re right.

Stoic Patriot on April 30, 2012 at 9:45 PM

I think PBHO couldn’t remember his line when asked this question, and that was the milquetoast version of it.

321mdl on April 30, 2012 at 9:49 PM

“I assume that people meant what they said when they said it,”

Does this mean Obama really wants a civilian military force? Just as strong, just as well funded?

?

Does this mean there really are 57 states?

Does this mean that electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket?

I’m curious.

Does this mean the police acted “stupidly?”

Does this also extend to actions like ‘bowing’ to other countries’ leaders?

Does this really mean that he has no clue the economy isn’t soaring off to new heights? Is the “recovery summer” really a recovery?

Or did he not mean that he meant what he said when he said that “I think people meant what they said when they said it?” catching himself in his own trap?

Oops.

Cheesecakecrush on April 30, 2012 at 10:00 PM

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”
― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

I was specifically looking for the above passage, but discovered that quite a few things from the “Alice” books are amazingly applicable to President Obama and his Looking-Glass administration.

AesopFan on April 30, 2012 at 11:49 PM

Isn’t it just wonderful how Obama is actually reading the Republican script for campaign ads? “I assume people mean what they say when they say it”. That’s the opener; then we start with public financing and move straight through the last 3 1/2 years when Obama says diametrically opposite things and sometimes they’re in the same paragraph.

Despicable, self-serving, self-aggrandizing dishonorable south side of a horse. That’s our Preezy.

Portia46 on May 1, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Yeah, dude. I want justice, period. I have a problem with an approach that says “Delivering justice is worth no more than [X] millions of dollars.”

Stoic Patriot on April 30, 2012 at 6:48 PM

We’re up to about $3 trillion in the anti-terrorist wars. We’ve gotten Osama, but that’s about it. Thousands of American lives have been lost. I’ve seen figures in the 100,000′s of Arabic casualties. Are we any safer? Probably not much. Are you agreeing with Obama that the war on terrorism is over and the US has won? I would disagree.

There is nothing in Romney’s quote to suggest he would not have gone after Osama. His quote implies that he disagrees with Obama’s current position that the war on terror is over.

talkingpoints on May 1, 2012 at 11:15 AM

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