In 2007, then-candidate Barack Obama made it clear what he would do as president if he learned that Osama bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan and that U.S. forces had a chance to take him out:
“If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and (Pakistani) President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”
His then-opponent, Hillary Clinton, took a similar stance:
“If we had actionable intelligence that Osama bin Laden or other high-value targets were in Pakistan I would ensure that they were targeted and killed or captured.”
However, another presidential candidate took issue with such statements, as Reuters reported at the time:
“I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours… I don’t think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort,” (Mitt) Romney told reporters on the campaign trail….
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is one of the Republican front-runners, said U.S. troops “shouldn’t be sent all over the world.” He called Obama’s comments “ill-timed” and “ill-considered.”
“There is a war being waged by terrorists of different types and nature across the world,” Romney said. “We want, as a civilized world, to participate with other nations in this civilized effort to help those nations reject the extreme with them.”
In 2008, as the primary season heated up, the debate continued.
“It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person,” Romney said in a GOP debate. After that statement drew harsh criticism from John McCain and others, Romney toughened his language a few days later, suggesting that he would indeed target bin Laden.
Obama, on the other hand, stuck to his original position:
“We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.”
Based on the evidence, it’s too much to argue that Romney would not have committed the manpower and money needed to track bin Laden. You also can’t argue that Romney would have balked at sending troops into Pakistan to kill the terrorist leader. Maybe he would have.
But against that “maybe,” you have the fact that another man had told us quite clearly what he would do if given the chance, and then did it.
– Jay Bookman