WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The founder of The Huffington Post calls President Obama’s campaign ad on Osama bin Laden “despicable.”
Appearing on CBS News, Arianna Huffington said there should not be an ad questioning whether presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney would’ve ordered the raid against the Al-Qaeda leader last year.
“I don’t think there should be an ad about that,” Huffington told CBS News. “I think it’s one thing to celebrate the fact that they did such a great job (with television specials). All that is perfectly legitimate. But to turn it into a campaign ad is one of the most despicable things you can do.”
The new web video questions whether Romney would have taken the same path Obama did. It features a quote from a 2007 Romney interview in which he said it was not worth “moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”
“(The ad) quotes a snippet from Romney and uses that to imply that Romney would not has been as decisive,” Huffington told CBS News. “There’s no way to know whether Romney would have been as decisive. To actually speculate that he wouldn’t be is, to me, not the way to run a campaign, on either side.”
The Romney campaign said Friday all the video does is “divide us.”
“It’s now sad to see the Obama campaign seek to use an event that unified our country to once again divide us, in order to distract voters’ attention from the failures of his administration,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the bin Laden raid is a part of Obama’s foreign policy story, and “I think the way that we’ve handled it represents exactly the balance you need to strike.”
President George W. Bush, when seeking re-election in 2004, faced criticism that he was politicizing the memory of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including with a video at the Republican National Convention that credited him with “the heart of a president.”
Steve Schmidt, a spokesman and strategist for that Bush campaign, said the bin Laden killing is fair game as a campaign message for Obama.
“It was a courageous political decision to launch the raid where bin Laden was killed. The stakes were enormous,” Schmidt said. “Had it gone south, there would have been tremendous political ramifications for the president. It’s a real event that happened on his watch, by his command.”
In perspective, Schmidt added, the issue won’t be a determining factor in an election to be driven by the economy.
Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by U.S. Navy SEALs. The terror leader was living in a compound in one of Islamabad’s suburbs, having evaded capture for nearly 10 years.
The episode is featured prominently in a longer Obama campaign video, narrated by actor Tom Hanks, as an example of decisive leadership.
Obama sent in the U.S. forces with no assurance that bin Laden was at the site, leading to a heart-pounding scene in the Situation Room, captured in one of the most famous photos of Obama’s presidency.
From that room, Obama will relive the moment in prime time. The White House granted NBC News’ Brian Williams access to the Situation Room, and interviews with Obama and top members of his security team, for a special that has been taped and will air on Wednesday.
It is unclear if the room has been used before as the setting for such an interview. NBC News called it a first for network television. White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor said the room itself is only classified if the topic being discussed is, and that reporters have been inside the room before.
Said Schmidt: “It’s part of the advantage of being an incumbent president.”
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