(AP) – The killing of Osama bin Laden, first presented as a moment of national unity by President Barack Obama, has become something else: a political weapon.
Obama’s re-election campaign is portraying his risky decision to go after America’s top enemy as a defining difference with his Republican presidential opponent, suggesting Mitt Romney might not have had the guts to order a mission that put lives and perhaps a presidency at stake.
Obama himself is opening up on the raid again – and opening the secretive White House Situation Room as an interview stage – to hail the one-year anniversary.
The broader goal for Obama, whether through campaign web videos or the trappings of the White House, is not to just to remind voters of an enormous victory on his watch. It is to maximize a political narrative that he has the courage to make tough calls that his opponent might not.
“Does anybody doubt that had the mission failed, it would have written the beginning of the end of the president’s first term?” Vice President Joe Biden says in laying out Obama’s foreign policy campaign message. “We know what President Obama did. We can’t say for certain what Governor Romney would have done.”
The strategy underscores the fact that the Obama who ordered the raid as commander in chief is now seeking a second term as president. The risk is the political blowback that can come if he is seen as crossing a line into politicizing national security.
“Sad,” said a Romney spokeswoman. “Shameless,” said 2008 Obama election foe John McCain.
Biden even combined the killing of the al-Qaida leader and Obama’s support for a failing auto industry into what he called a re-election bumper sticker message.
“It’s pretty simple: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” the vice president said in a speech on Thursday.