Romney picks a fight over bin Laden

Of all the issues Republican presidential candidates want to talk about, the U.S. mission that killed Osama bin Laden should be near the bottom. It’s not complicated: there’s no GOP upside for reminding Americans about one of President Obama’s triumphs.

It was curious, then, that Mitt Romney went on Fox News and picked a fight over this. In reference to Republicans, the former one-term governor who doesn’t know anything about national security policy said, “We’re delighted that he gave the order to take out Osama bin Laden. Any president would have done that.”

The problem, of course, is that this isn’t true. In fact, we know a President Romney wouldn’t have ordered the same strike because he’s said so.

During Romney’s first presidential campaign, he took an entirely passive attitude towards the al Qaeda leader, saying “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth” to get the terrorist responsible for 9/11. Around the same time, Romney said he would not order a strike into Pakistan to get bin Laden, rejecting Obama’s willingness “to enter an ally of ours” to target the terrorist leader.

As for the notion that the president’s decision in May was easy and obvious — something that “any president would have done” — the DNC has a very good video out this morning showing just how “courageous” and “gutsy” Obama’s decision really was.

In general, it seems that Romney should just avoid talking about national security, foreign policy, and international affairs altogether. His only experience is traipsing around France for a few years, and whenever Romney tries to sound intelligent on the subject, he comes across like an idiot.

Yesterday, he flip-flopped on Iraq. A few weeks ago, Romney couldn’t answer a question about an al Qaeda affiliate, Al Shabab, controlling significant territory in Somalia.

Romney’s take on Iran is gibberish. His call for a trade war with China is hopelessly insane. He’s under the false impression that there are “insurgents” in Iran.

Worse, Romney keeps failing these tests. Remember the time Romney told ABC News he would “set a deadline for bringing the troops home” from Iraq — but only if it’s a secret deadline? How about the time Romney, more than four years into the war in Iraq, said it’s “entirely possible” that Saddam Hussein hid weapons of mass destruction in Syria prior to the 2003 invasion? Or the time Romney pretended “Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood” were all the same thing? How about my personal favorite: the time Romney made the bizarre assertion that IAEA weapons inspectors were not allowed entry into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq?

More recently, Romney tried to trash the New START nuclear treaty in an op-ed, prompting Fred Kaplan to respond, “In 35 years of following debates over nuclear arms control, I have never seen anything quite as shabby, misleading and — let’s not mince words — thoroughly ignorant as Mitt Romney’s attack on the New START treaty.”

Everyone got a good laugh at Herman Cain and Rick Perry for coming across as dumb on these issues, but Romney is every bit as big a joke.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.