(WASHINGTON) — A backlash against President Obama’s politicization of the killing of Osama bin Laden may be having an effect on how the president and his campaign advisers refer to the accomplishment.
Namely, the president taking first-person credit last week has turned into expressions of collective achievement this week.
“Our greatest enemy brought to justice by our greatest heroes,” says the narrator in a new Obama campaign TV ad released Monday.
The president’s top campaign adviser, David Axelrod, used similar language on a conference call with reporters: “We’re proud of our service people and all they’ve accomplished,” he said.
Axelrod mentioned significant progress in the battle with al Qaeda “because of the great work of our service people and the leadership of the president.”
Although he had always before been careful to mention that Navy SEALs and service members hunted down al Qaeda, last week Obama took credit, in the first person, for making the decision to go after bin Laden in Pakistan.
“I said that I’d go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did,” Obama told reporters during an East Room press conference, reminding them of a campaign promise he had made in 2008.
President Obama said Romney’s words should speak for themselves. Romney had in 2007 said it wasn’t worth spending billions of dollars hunting one man, though he later moderated that position to say “of course” he would have ordered the operation against bin Laden.
Also last week, commemorating the one-year anniversary of bin Laden’s death, the Obama campaign unveiled a Web video that questioned whether Mitt Romney would have made the call to send Navy SEALs into Pakistan to assassinate the terrorist leader.
In it, former President Bill Clinton points out how difficult a political decision the call was for Obama, who could have suffered an embarrassment if the mission did not turn out.
What happened between last week and today? Some Republicans suggested President Obama and his advisers were “spiking the football” on the death of bin Laden. Obama had famously said on 60 Minutes that he would not release photos of bin Laden’s dead body because “that’s not who we are.” The liberal commentator Arianna Huffington said preening by the president and his campaign was off key.
A group called “Veterans for a Strong America,” which supports Mitt Romney, also released a harsh Web ad suggesting Obama was “taking too much credit.” The video, which runs one minute and splices together bits of Obama taking credit for the strike against bin Laden without any context, has more than a million views online. And a website with the provocative title “NavySealsAgainstObama.com” sprang up to aggregate opinion pieces critical of the president.
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