One year after he authorised an extraordinary mission inside Pakistan by an elite Navy SEALs unit to kill Osama bin Laden, President Barack Obama is not hesitating to put it front and centre in his gathering re-election effort, while implying that his presumptive challenger in 2012, Mitt Romney, might not have been so gutsy.
The all-out effort to remind Americans of what will widely be seen as Mr Obama’s signal foreign policy success since taking office has included the release of a 7-minute video about the operation partly narrated by former President Bill Clinton – and has raised the ire of Republicans who accuse him of milking it.
“This is one of the reasons President Obama has become one of the most divisive presidents in American history,” complained senior Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie. “He’s managed to turn it into a divisive, partisan political attack. I think most Americans will see it as a sign of a desperate campaign.”
Coy the Obama campaign is not. In addition to the video with its solemn musical score, the NBC news network was this week granted an unprecedented interview with the president in the White House Situation Room where he and his national security team, including Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, monitored the raid on the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad as it unfolded.
The NBC interview with anchor Brian Williams, to be broadcast on the network tomorrow evening, includes reflections on the moment when a now famous photograph was taken of the team enthralled with monitors in the room at the moment that one of the SEAL helicopters crashed with mechanical failure.
“There’s silence at this point inside the room,” the president tells Mr Williams, who also speaks to Mrs Clinton, seen in the picture with her hand over her mouth. “What it conjures up is all of the emotions that were running through my and every other person in that small group,” she says. “It was just an extraordinary experience.”
The campaign video makes reference to a comment made by Mr Romney when he was seeking the Republican nomination in 2007. Of the hunt to kill bin Laden, he says, “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth, spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”
Senator John McCain, the eventual Republican nominee four years ago and a war veteran, has also lashed Mr Obama over his celebrating the killing of bin Laden now, accusing him of “doing a shameless end-zone dance to help himself get re-elected”.
But the Obama campaign has shot back. “Osama bin Laden no longer walks on this planet today because of that brave decision and the brave actions by the men and women in our military,” Obama advisor and former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs asserted. “Quite frankly, Mitt Romney said it was a foolish thing to do a few years ago.”
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