Former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is dead and gone, but his demise was used on Friday as a campaign issue by US President Barack Obama, whose new campaign ad questions whether his Republican rival would have ordered such a risky military raid.
The video features former US president Bill Clinton hailing Obama for a brave call to take out the al-Qaeda leader in a Navy SEALs operation one year ago.
Aides to White House challenger and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and a top Republican rapped Democrats for politicizing the raid in the run-up to the May 2 anniversary, saying it was “unbecoming” of Obama to reduce such an historic moment to a campaign slogan.
“He had to decide and that’s what you hire a president to do. You hire the president to make the calls when no one else can do it,” Clinton said in the 90-second video, which sought to contrast Obama with the presumptive Republican nominee.
Clinton saluted Obama for greenlighting the clandestine raid into Pakistan despite knowing that the consequences would be disastrous if it went wrong.
“Suppose the Navy SEALs had gone in there and it hadn’t been bin Laden,” Clinton said. “Suppose they’d been captured or killed. The downside would have been horrible for him, but he reasoned: ‘I cannot in good conscience do nothing.’ He took the harder and the more honorable path and the one that produced, in my opinion, the best result.”
The ad’s on-screen text asks: “Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?” and features a screen grab highlighting Romney’s doubts about the merits of searching for bin Laden.
“It is not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person,” Romney was quoted as saying in a news report shown on CNN from when he was a Republican candidate four years ago.
Romney’s campaign argued that while Romney congratulated the president and military on that day last year, a “desperate” Obama was seizing on the achievement to distract voters “from the failures of his administration.”
“Killing Osama bin Laden was a momentous day for all Americans and we all give the president credit,” former US secretary of defense Frank Carlucci and former US secretary of the navy John Lehman, who both served under former US president Ronald Reagan, said in a Romney campaign statement.
“But we are saddened to see the president of the United States politicize that event, even reducing it to a campaign slogan. This is unbecoming of the commander-in-chief,” they added.
Romney’s campaign attacked Obama’s “remarkably flailing” reelection bid, saying the president was refusing to run on his record.
That point was driven home by US Senator John McCain, who beat Romney to the Republican nomination in 2008, but lost the election to Obama.
“Shame on Barack Obama for diminishing the memory of Sept. 11th  and the killing of Osama bin Laden by turning it into a cheap political attack ad,” McCain said in a statement.