President Obama faced mounting criticism Tuesday for allegedly politicizing the anniversary of Usama bin Laden's death, with Sen. John McCain scolding the commander in chief and former New York Gov. George Pataki going so far as to call on Obama to apologize.
The president on Tuesday, in a surprise announcement, arrived in Afghanistan for a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a visit with U.S. troops and later a speech to the nation. Bin Laden's death is expected to come up in that speech, though it is not expected to be the focal point.
The trip comes as the criticism of his handling of the anniversary heats up. Earlier, current and former Navy SEALs reportedly had criticized the president for using the elite unit's deeds as "ammunition" in his reelection bid.
"You know the thing about heroes? They don't brag," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Obama's rival in the 2008 election, told Fox News.
The Obama campaign touched off the heated debate over the historic raid with a web video Friday that touted Obama's decision-making prowess in approving the mission, and questioned whether Mitt Romney would have done the same.
Romney said Tuesday that "of course" he would have approved the raid if given the choice.
"I certainly would have taken that action myself," Romney said. "I think politicizing it ... and trying to draw a distinction between himself and myself was an inappropriate use of the very important event that brought America together, which was the elimination of Usama bin Laden."
Pataki, who was governor during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said he was "appalled" by the president's political treatment of the raid.
"You don't celebrate your brilliance when it's because we have brave young Americans out there, putting their lives on the line," Pataki told Fox News Tuesday. "I think it's wrong, I think it should stop and I think the president should apologize."
Even the president's former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has warned about allowing the raid to be used as a campaign tool.
"The decision that he made and obviously the result stand alone in terms of the kind of call presidents have to make and he made it. I do worry a great deal that this time of year that somehow this gets spun into election politics," Adm. Mike Mullen said in an interview with NBC News.
"I can assure you that those individuals who risked their lives -- the last thing in the world that they want is to be spun into that, so I am hoping that that doesn't happen."
Britain's Daily Mail also published criticism from current and former SEALs. Ryan Zinke, a former SEAL commander and current GOP state senator in Montana, told the newspaper that using the SEALs as "ammunition" was "predictable."
Obama, though, has defended his campaign ad and denied using the anniversary for "excessive celebration."
At a press conference Monday, Obama also challenged Romney on a past statement in which he said it's not worth moving "heaven and earth" to catch one person -- a reference to bin Laden, though Romney later clarified the remark.
"I'd just recommend that everybody take a look at people's previous statements," Obama said Monday. "I assume that people meant what they said when they said it."
He continued: "I said that I'd go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did. ... If there are others who have said one thing, and now suggest they'd do something else, then I'd go ahead and let them explain it."