Bin Laden anniversary delicate moment for Obama, Romney

WASHINGTON Wed Apr 25, 2012 8:23pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Vice President Joe Biden (L), along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Also pictured are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd R) and Defense Secretary Robert Gates (R). REUTERS/White House/Pete Souza/Handout/Files

U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Vice President Joe Biden (L), along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Also pictured are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd R) and Defense Secretary Robert Gates (R).

Credit: Reuters/White House/Pete Souza/Handout/Files

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It was a triumphant moment a year ago for the United States and President Barack Obama, but now the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's killing presents an election-year challenge for him and his Republican opponents.

Obama is expected to acknowledge the May 1 anniversary of the daring Navy SEAL raid on bin Laden's Pakistan compound.

But he will not overdo it, a senior White House official said, reflecting perhaps the dangers of hyping an event that speaks for itself - and is still controversial, particularly among Pakistanis who saw the U.S. attack as a violation of their country's sovereignty.

Republicans, specially presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, must decide if the occasion is an opportunity to attack Obama's foreign policy record - or talk about something else.

National security has not been a major theme in a 2012 campaign dominated by economic worries, but that could change - at least temporarily - in the days ahead.

On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden will use a New York speech to contrast Obama's foreign policy record with what the president's partisans see as Romney's inexperienced rhetoric. Biden will inevitably recall bin Laden's demise and other successes against al Qaeda over the last three years.


In a hastily called speech from the White House on May 1, Obama said U.S. special forces had killed bin Laden in his compound near Islamabad. The United States had not informed the Pakistani government before launching the raid, which took place before dawn local time on May 2.

The killing of bin Laden, who was behind the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, sent Americans into the street in late-night celebrations and revived the image of a country that would find its enemies - even if it took a decade.

For Obama, "this is a moment to be presidential and not worry so much about the campaign," said Clyde Wilcox, a professor of government at Georgetown University. "The emphasis is that America will avenge itself, and we do take action when we are attacked. Not to be gloating, but to be strong."

A senior White House official said that in addressing the anniversary, Obama "will give credit where credit is due," in a nod to the work done by the administration of Republican President George W. Bush to track bin Laden down, as well as the U.S. forces who carried out the mission.

For Republicans anxious to defeat Obama in November, bin Laden's killing has made it more difficult to attack him on foreign policy, traditionally a strong suit for the party. Obama has been even more aggressive than Bush in using unmanned drones to attack suspected militants in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Republican strategists say they have no intention of conceding the wider field of foreign policy to Obama, and they view him as vulnerable on a number of issues.

Romney has accused Obama of mishandling the stand-off with Iran over its nuclear program, trade issues with China, and the attempted reset of relations with Russia, where Vladimir Putin has been re-elected as president this year.

"Republicans still think foreign policy is really fertile ground to make the case against Obama," said Michael Goldfarb, a former aide to Republican 2008 presidential nominee John McCain.

"I would not be surprised if they use killing of bin Laden and the anniversary to give credit where it is due ... but also use it as an opportunity to talk about all the places where there is still so much unfinished businesses, and where the president's promises have fallen short," Goldfarb said.

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said she had no information to release about the candidate's schedule for May 1.

Bin Laden's killing in a compound just a few hours drive from Islamabad was a severe embarrassment to Pakistan, worsening relations with Washington and fanning anti-American sentiment in the country.

Analysts acknowledged the anniversary had an unavoidable resonance on the U.S. campaign trail, but cautioned that glorifying bin Laden's killing may not serve American interests in Arab and Islamic countries.

"It's a difficult minefield given Pakistani sensitivities and continued questions about al Qaeda's Pakistani support network," said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who has advised Obama on counter-terrorism issues.

(Editing by Warren Strobel and Mohammad Zargham)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (3)
Robert76 wrote:
I think Obama has more than proven he can handle world politics and threats against the USA. The only ones who will not admit it are the Republicans both in office and the ones who plant vile lies on the internet that are so oftens forwarded by well meaning people only to purpetuate the lies against hime.

As a “former Republican,” I will be voting for Obama in this election.

Apr 25, 2012 11:26pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
uc8tcme wrote:
Don’t give too much hipe to this a year later – stay focus and with the task at hand – 4 more years.

Apr 26, 2012 2:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ertdfg wrote:
Yes Robert76, you’re a “former Republican”. Like I’m a “former MISS TEEN USA”.

Ok, a tale of two quotes… First, Mitt’s quote that Obama uses in his new ad.

“It’s not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person….” Obama stops quoting there, so lets add the next line…

“…It is worth fashioning and executing an effective strategy to defeat global, violent Jihad and I have a plan for doing that.”

THAT is your quote showing Romney wouldn’t have done any6hing about Al Qaeda? Only if you butcher the quote does that work.

Use full quotes; like this one…

“You know, we don’t trot out this stuff as trophies,” Obama told CBS soon after the terrorist mastermind had been taken out. He added: “Americans and people around the world are glad that he’s gone. But we don’t need to spike the football.”

Did I miss the rest of the Obama quote where he adds “unless I need it for political gain for my personal benefit; then I’m totally doing just that’?

Amazing how Obama can butcher quotes, slander others, and outright lie; but you’re still impressed with his “leadership”.

Weird that you’re accusing Republicans of “vile lies”… Obama’s campaign misquoting Romney for political gain… “vile lie”? Or the act of a great a noble leader?

Apr 27, 2012 1:55pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.