Published April 30, 2012
President Obama's campaign is hammering a Mitt Romney quote from five years ago to suggest -- quite strongly -- that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee would not have had the guts to approve the Usama bin Laden raid if he were president.
This is the quote the campaign is using: "It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person."
But here's what Romney also said of bin Laden, when clarifying that comment just a few days later: "He will die."
The "heaven-and-earth" quote is not a new revelation. Romney was challenged on that statement in 2007 during the Republican primary battle, and the former Massachusetts governor subsequently amended his remarks.
But the Obama campaign, which is standing by its controversial bin Laden ad in the face of withering GOP criticism, continues to omit reference to the rest of what Romney said about the fate bin Laden deserved.
The original quote came from an April 2007 interview with the Associated Press. Romney said in that interview he backs a broad strategy to defeat Islamic jihadists and that it's "not worth moving heaven and earth" for one person. Romney said catching bin Laden would make the country safer by a "small percentage" -- he added, a "very insignificant increase in safety." Romney's argument was that somebody else would replace bin Laden at the helm of Al Qaeda.
None other than Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee who is now defending Romney on the issue, criticized him for the April 2007 statement.
But at an MSNBC debate in May 2007, Romney gave a new explanation.
"Of course we get Usama bin Laden and track him wherever he has to go, and make sure he pays for the outrage he exacted upon America," Romney said.
Asked if that meant moving heaven and earth, Romney said: "We'll move everything to get him. But I don't want to buy into the Democratic pitch that this is all about one person. ... It's more than Usama bin Laden. But he is going to pay, and he will die."
Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs, speaking Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," conceded that Romney might hold a different position than his "heaven-and-earth" quote implied, though he made no reference to Romney's 2007 debate comments.
"Maybe the comments he made a few years ago he admits are wrong, or he's flip-flopped on yet another issue," Gibbs said Sunday.
Gibbs described the message in the latest Obama campaign web video as "fair game," and continued to question whether Romney would have approved the mission.
In that video, Bill Clinton praises Obama for his leadership in reviewing and approving the bin Laden raid, which was carried out nearly one year ago. The video then turns to the Romney quote and questions whether he would have shown the same leadership.
Republicans excoriated Obama for the ad. Romney adviser Ed Gillespie told "Meet the Press" that the president had taken a unifying moment for the country and turned it into a "divisive, partisan, political attack."