So there is now much ado about an Obama campaign web video marking the 1 year anniversary of the operation that managed to bring down Osama Bin Laden (The Hill reports here, if you need a primer). Two things about it have drawn considerable attention: positive comments about the decision from President Clinton and the fact that it questions whether Romney would have made the same call.
As a communication tactic, the video is already successful. The thing with web videos is that they cost nothing to make and are effective not because there are tons of people are scouring the internet for this stuff, but because media will reliably report on one and thereby spread the message around if it has the right hook. This ad included an attack on Romney, got noticed, and then Romney's people responded because you kind of have to. And however it goes people get reminded that we got Osama a year ago; the controversy taking place after the fact is secondary.
That said, let there be no doubt, that attack was pure hackish politics. In my opinion it also won't actually do much good in the long run, as just about everybody approves of the fact that we got him. But none of that alters or mitigates the problems on the domestic front, and nobody's going to fundamentally alter this into an election about something other than that. Only events will do that, and drastic ones at that. A what-if accusation like this just doesn't have much mileage.
But let's get back to the lameness and unfairness of this. First off, some ask (rhetorically) whether Obama is entitled to "spike the football", as it were. The answer is YES. It was a gutsy call, based on intelligence that was circumstantial but still the best we'd ever had since 2001, according to then-CIA Director Leon Panetta, who according to Joe Biden was the only person in the room decisively for it. Everyone else "hedged their bet", the experienced Biden told the President not to give the order. The operation was, admittedly, risky. He did it anyway and put a massive exclamation point on America's years-long effort to cripple Al Qaeda across the world. Well done. Yeah, you score a victory like that, you get to bask in your glory a bit.
But celebrating victory is one thing, using it as a blunt instrument against Romney is another. Nobody knows what he or anybody else would do in that situation with the intelligence presented. You don't know until the time comes. The Obama team bases the insinuation on a 2007 quote where Romney said "It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person." But a few days later he added "We'll move everything to get him. But I don't want to buy into the Democratic pitch that this is all about one person. ... It's more than Usama bin Laden. But he is going to pay, and he will die." Even the original quote is correct, Al Qaeda & terrorist movements are bigger than any one leader. The damage we did and do to Al Qaeda before & after his demise matters. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have not seen success against terrorism in such narrow terms. And it doesn't even follow from the cited quote that, given the best opportunity in years, you don't seize it.
Moreover, it really is a bit much to see Joe Biden acting as an attack dog on the point - this from the man who publicly admitted that he advised the President not to go?! If this political attack were seriously based on the idea Romney's not qualified to lead and make big decisions, then logically Biden shouldn't be VP anymore. Never mind the unfortunate implications toward the rest of the Obama cabinet. At least Biden had a clearly defined opinion to offer.
Of course, as said, it's not really all that serious. In contrast, Obama certainly could have used this to buttress his stature as commander in chief all the way through November. He could've gone for running as a proven & strong leader against an out-of-touch CEO, & that would have been in touch with the sort of person he likes people to see him as. But no, instead the campaign goes for the divisive cheap shot that will win a news cycle or two. He deserved to play the card. It's a shame he's doing it badly.
Now watch as the approval ratings barely shift in the coming weeks.