Romney campaign chairman John Sununu talked to the New York Times’ Andrew Goldman, who asked whether Sununu felt there was too much “football spiking over Osama bin Laden” at the Democratic convention. The Republican replied:
“The president is trying to take credit for following the strategy and the tactics put into place by George W. Bush. At some point the president is going to have to explain why he was timid on the first two or three opportunities that we had. Thank goodness Hillary Clinton was there was to convince him to do the right thing.”
Moments later, Sununu conceded, “I have no idea what happened in that White House,” after just having said he knew what happened in the White House.
I continue to find this entire line of attack deeply strange. For one thing, Sununu is relying on an odd anti-Obama book that has struggled badly to stand up to scrutiny.
For another, Obama wasn’t “timid on the first two or three opportunities.” On the contrary, it was Donald Rumsfeld who called off missions to get bin Laden he considered too risky.
Perhaps most importantly, Obama wasn’t “following the strategy and the tactics put into place by George W. Bush,” he did the exact opposite. Whereas the Bush/Cheney administration made a conscious, deliberate decision to deemphasize capturing the al Qaeda leader, Obama chose to shift the emphasis back: “[F]rom early in his administration Obama was focused on killing Osama Bin Laden and that he was involved in the process throughout. In June 2009, Obama directed his CIA director to ‘provide me within 30 days a detailed operation plan for locating and bringing to justice’ Osama Bin Laden. By August 2010 intelligence officials had identified the suspicious compound where Osama lived.”
But from a purely strategic perspective, what does Sununu hope to gain from resuming this fight? How does it help Romney to remind everyone that Obama took an enormous risk when he ordered the strike, but he made the tough call and it paid off?