As President Barack Obama pushed national security to the political forefront with an unannounced trip to Afghanistan, Mitt Romney appeared at a Manhattan firehouse and stressed that he also would have ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden a year ago.
Romney, while saying Obama deserves credit for the bin Laden mission, yesterday termed it “inappropriate” for the president to have politicized the anniversary of the raid with a campaign advertisement that suggests the former Massachusetts governor wouldn’t have acted likewise.
“Had I been president of the United States, I would have made the same decision the president made” to carry out the raid, Romney said after meeting privately with the firefighters.
Romney was joined by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani at the SoHo station, which lost 11 men in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Romney and Giuliani brought pizza and spent time talking to the firefighters.
Obama, on the one-year anniversary of bin Laden’s killing, was on his way to Afghanistan as Romney was speaking, arriving after nightfall in that country to sign a strategic partnership agreement with the Afghan government that is a prelude to U.S. military disengagement from the decade-long war.
The accord outlining future U.S. support for Afghanistan took more than a year of negotiations and marks a milestone for the administration’s goal of handing over security responsibility to local forces by the end of 2014.
“We can see the light of a new day on the horizon,” Obama said in a nationally televised address from Bagram Airfield base in Afghanistan.
The president noted that “it was here, in Afghanistan, where Osama bin laden established a safe-haven for his terrorist organization” and “launched the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children.”
Obama and all others involved in the Bin Laden raid, including intelligence officials and the armed forces, deserve credit for its success, Romney said at the firehouse. He said it was “totally appropriate” for Obama to claim credit for it.
Earlier yesterday during his New York visit, Romney met with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to discuss issues that included gun control laws and immigration policy.
Obama’s campaign released an ad April 27 that features former President Bill Clinton calling Obama courageous for ordering the bin Laden raid. It questions whether Romney would have made the same call, noting that, during his first presidential run, Romney said in an April 2007 interview, “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth, spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”
In pushing back against the ad, Romney yesterday on the CBS program “This Morning” said, “These silly kinds of attacks, it’s like, what has that got to do with getting our economy going. Of course I would have taken out Osama bin Laden.”
He made similar comments April 30 at a campaign stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
As Romney sought to parry Obama on the bin Laden raid, the Republican’s spokesman on national security matters, Richard Grenell, who is openly gay, resigned his campaign post yesterday following attacks by anti-gay activists.
“My ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign,” Grenell said, according to a statement obtained by the Washington Post, which earlier reported the resignation.
Grenell, who served as chief U.S. spokesman at the United Nations throughout President George W. Bush’s administration, thanked Romney “for his belief in me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team.”
Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades expressed disappointment “that Ric decided to resign from the campaign for his own personal reasons.” In a statement, Rhoades said, “We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill.”
Teddy Goff, digital director for Obama’s re-election campaign, wrote in a Twitter message: “Today we learned that in the year 2012, a Republican nominee for president can’t have a gay person as spokesman.”
Romney, 65, told reporters that he didn’t ask for Bloomberg’s endorsement in his meeting with the mayor.
Bloomberg, 70, later said he hasn’t decided whether he will endorse a presidential candidate, while he acknowledged clear differences between Obama and Romney.
“I’ll see down the road,” Bloomberg told reporters at City Hall. “I think both are very smart, very formidable candidates. They’re very different, and they give the public a real choice.”
Bloomberg’s press secretary, Stu Loeser, said the private session lasted about 30 minutes at the mayor’s philanthropic foundation in Manhattan.
Bloomberg is a former Democrat who became a Republican to run for mayor in 2001 and 2005 and then became an independent in 2007. He won his third mayoral term running on the Independence Party and Republican Party ballot lines in 2009. He met with Obama for a March 11 lunch at the White House. On April 27, he played golf in the Washington area with Vice President Joe Biden.
Loeser said Bloomberg and Romney discussed issues the mayor has emphasized over the years, including increased efforts to prevent illegal gun sales and less restrictive immigration laws. In his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Romney has stressed his support for gun rights and taken a tough stance on illegal immigration.
“We need a president who will enforce current laws, not create new ones that only serve to burden lawful gun owners,” Romney said in an April 13 speech at the National Rifle Association’s convention in St Louis.
“It’s hard to argue that you can’t tell the difference” between Romney and Obama on the issues, Bloomberg said in his comments at City Hall. “They run the spectrum on lots of different issues.”
Romney told reporters he and Bloomberg discussed “a wide array of things,” mostly about the city. “The mayor and I had a very nice chat,” he said.
The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.