PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- Seeking to neutralize one of President Obama's recent arguments, Mitt Romney said on Monday that "of course" he would have ordered military forces to make the 2011 raid that ended with the death of Osama bin Laden.
Asked by a reporter whether he would have gone after the al-Qaida leader, Romney responded: "Of course." He was then asked if he would have given the specific order to kill bin Laden.
“Of course," he said. "Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order.”
Obama's reelection team has sought to make an issue of what they consider the president's decisiveness on the issue compared with Romney's. They released a video, "One Chance," last week that opens with former President Clinton talking about the risks Obama took in authorizing the raid. The video then cuts to a question: “Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?"
Obama sees his strategy as a vindication of his initial position in 2007 when he declared: "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [then-Pakistani leader] President Musharraf will not act, we will." Both Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton and GOP nominee John McCain mocked him for taking such a stance, calling it naive.
The Obama campaign questioned whether the former Massachusetts governor was being truthful by also citing Romney's statements about taking preemptive action against al-Qaida. It noted an August 2007 Reuters story in which Romney was quoted as saying: "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."
At a press conference later Monday, Obama was asked about Romney’s comments. In a response in which he did not say Romney’s name, Obama said he recommended an examination of people’s past statements – a likely reference to Romney’s comments during the 2008 campaign that “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth” to capture bin Laden.
“I assume that people meant what they said when they said it,” Obama said. “If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they would do something else, then I would go ahead and let them explain it.”
Romney earlier dinged the president for seeking to turn voters' attention away from the economy.
“Over these last several days, we have seen this president go across the country and bring up all sorts of extraneous items," he said. "Everything he can do to distract from the issue that people care about, which is a stronger economy, creating more enterprises, creating good jobs, and raising incomes. And making sure, therefore, that our kids coming out of college can find a job. That our kids coming out of high school can find a job, and we can be confident that the future for our children is better even than what we’ve enjoyed.”
The former Massachusetts governor also accused the administration of adding too many government officials to enforce regulations, contending they were "just multiplying like proverbial rabbits and making it harder and harder for enterprises to grow and to understand what their future might be." That assertion drew an immediate denial from Obama's reelection team.
“Mitt Romney continues to distort the truth about President Obama’s record of reducing burdensome business regulations," spokeswoman Lis Smith said.