Obama Focuses on Foreign Policy, Counterterrorism, in 2012 Campaign

President Barrack Obama appears to be making the killing of Osama Bin Laden a cornerstone of his re-election campaign, despite having previously gone on the record as saying that in regards to such matters, we Following his effective clinching of the GOP nomination after winning five primaries last Tuesday, Mitt Romney has now turned his attention from internal GOP politics to the general election. President Obama has responded in kind, and, to the surprise of many, is now emphasizing his foreign policy and national security-related accomplishments. This represents a radical departure from electoral politics as usual, where economic issues generally take center stage.

Playing the Bin Laden Card
On Friday, Obama revealed one of his key 2012 campaign tools when he lauded his success in the U.S.-led killing of infamous terrorist Osama bin Laden. The president suggested Governor Romney may not have been as effective in orchestrating such a foreign policy move as commander-in-chief, according to a web video released by the Obama campaign.

 “What path would Mitt Romney have taken?” former President Bill Clinton asks about the bin Laden operation in “One Chance.”
Obama’s campaign is drawing in particular from a comment Romney made in 2007 to The Associated Press, when he said: “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth, spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”

Referring to Precedent—2008
Andrew Kaczynski, a political reporter and researcher for BuzzFeed.com, notes that while there may be uncertainty surrounding conjectures on what Romney may have done with bin Laden, in 2008, Obama likewise thought killing the 9/11 mastermind wasn’t a necessity. Then, Obama was of the opinion that the United States would have to be careful Bin Laden didn’t become a “martyr.”

“What would be important would be for us to do it in a way that allows the entire world to understand the murderous acts that he’s engaged in and not to make him into a martyr, and to assure that the United States government is abiding by basic conventions that would strengthen our hand in the broader battle against terrorism,” Obama said as he unveiled his new national security team in June 2008.

Michael Falcone of ABC News also found Obama accusing Hillary Clinton of using bin Laden to ‘score political points’ in 2008, signifying his similarly uncertain, evolving perspective on how bin Laden was to be dealt with.

Obama’s claims then were based on the 2008 Pennsylvania primary, when Clinton’s campaign released a television commercial featuring an image of bin Laden and invoking former President Harry Truman’s quote: “If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.” This was part of the Clinton campaign’s effort to brand then-Senator Obama as inexperienced in the foreign policy arena.

“Who do you think has what it takes?” the commercial’s narrator says as an image of Clinton flashes on the screen. (The commercial showed a brief clip of bin Laden, as well as images of Pearl Harbor, the 1920′s stock market crash, Fidel Castro, and the fall of the Berlin Wall). “You need to be ready for anything, especially now.” The Obama campaign spokesman, Bill Burton, accused the Clinton team then of playing “the politics of fear”.

McCain Returns with Criticism

The Republican National Committee was as quick to respond to Obama’s latest video, sending out Senator John McCain, who boasted his foreign policy and national security credentials in an attempt to keep the presidency in Republican hands in 2008. McCain was dispatched to promptly remove any advantage the President might pick up from the video heading into the general election.

“Shame on Barack Obama for diminishing the memory of September 11th and the killing of Osama bin Laden by turning it into a cheap political attack ad,” McCain said in a statement. “This is the same president who once criticized Hillary Clinton for invoking bin Laden ‘to score political points’. This is the same president who said, after bin Laden was dead, that we shouldn’t ‘spike the ball’ after the touchdown.”

“And now Barack Obama is not only trying to score political points by invoking Osama bin Laden, he is doing a shameless end-zone dance to help himself get re-elected,” Senator McCain noted.

McCain instead turned the public’s attention to the president’s record, and listed Obama’s other foreign policy decisions that have, in the eyes of many, proven harmful to U.S. national security. He criticized the president for turning his back on the people of Iran during the Green Revolution,  “throwing our ally Israel under the bus,” prematurely withdrawing troops from Iraq (saying that “al-Qaeda is making a comeback there as a result”), and for considering bringing 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al-Qaeda terrorists to New York City to stand trial in civilian court.
“With a record like that on national security, it is no wonder why President Obama is shamelessly turning the one decision he got right into a pathetic political act of self-congratulation,” McCain concluded.

Confused, Incoherent, and Incompetent
Ambassador John Bolton, who once flirted with a presidential run to bring more awareness to national security and foreign policy issues, described President Obama’s foreign policy as “confused and incoherent and incompetent” in an interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News.
According to a recent study, such foreign policy remarks are part of a discussion that may actually bear fruit in the upcoming election.
While only half of Americans regard foreign policy issues as a “very important” electoral issue, a PEW research survey has found that, for some, foreign policy can play a significant role in the candidate they choose to endorse.

For those who describe foreign policy as an “important issue”, President Obama’s lead in the polls over Mitt Romney shrank to a 6 point lead. Despite low foreign policy grades, since he has no legislative or national executive background, Romney still holds a 14 point lead over President Obama among those who consider Iran a deciding electoral factor.