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Special Report

The politics of the Bin Laden anniversary

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 1, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THIS MORNING"/CBS)

MITT ROMNEY, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I acknowledge the president's success and I think he has every right to take credit for him having ordered that attack. At the same time I think it was very disappointing for the president to try and make this a political item by suggesting that I wouldn't have ordered such a raid. Of course I would have. Any American, any thinking American would have ordered exactly the same thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, HOST: Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney talking about the politics around the bin Laden killing anniversary. Chuck, what about this? And is there a point at which there is a backlash here?

CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: There is. We don't know exactly where it is. For every voter it's a little bit different. So the president has to be kind of careful not to overdo it. We have to see whether this is something from the anniversary or whether it's something they will keep doing all year long, in which case I think he is running a little bit of a risk.

There is an irony here. He is criticizing Mitt Romney for not wanting to do this raid. But his own vice president, Joe Biden, has gone public saying he didn't want to do the raid. He advised the president not to do the raid. So --

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: If there was ever anything to convince you to do it is if Joe Biden advised against it.

LANE: That might have been what happened. But he's trying to make the case that Romney was totally, you know, off the reservation by even thinking don't do it. And yet his own number two had the same view.

BAIER: And, Juan, you have Arianna Huffington, who is not that well known a conservative, she doesn't usually come from that point of view, but she said there is no way to know that Romney would have not made that decision, and to speculate he wouldn't is not the way to run a campaign.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, you know, to my mind, this is politics. We are in a political season. I think the official starting date for the campaign is supposed to be Saturday. We have been in the political season now for some time. And the fact is that Mitt Romney when he was running in 2007 said, you know what, it's not worth moving heaven and earth to catch one person. That was what he said. And then you have people like Hillary Clinton chastising Barack Obama for saying he would go in to Pakistan to get bin Laden.

BAIER: Saying it publicly, Juan.

WILLIAMS: Correct. Right. They're politicians. Yes. He said it publicly.

BAIER: That was the criticism, that he said it publicly, not that he would haven't done it.

WILLIAMS: At the time, Bret, they were running for office and they were laying down markers as to who they were, especially in the aftermath of the fact that President Bush who was a clear, strong advocate of going after Al Qaeda, had been unable to get bin Laden.

BAIER: But you acknowledge you cannot say something on the campaign trail but yet do it privately?

WILLIAMS: Correct. But remember then Mitt Romney changes his position and says of course I would go in and fete him. And so now, in this political season -- and, again, I understand the politics. I understand why the Obama campaign is bringing it up and I understand why they had Bill Clinton hawking this now in a video for political reasons. But to me, there is an element of appearing unseemly.

BAIER: I want to play this really quickly. This is former Defense Secretary Bob Gates after the bin Laden raid talking about intelligence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 12, 2011)

BOB GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: A week ago Sunday, in the situation room, we all agreed that we would not release any of operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden. That all fell apart on Monday, the next day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Steve, there has been a lot of concern about the fact that intelligence actually wasn't fully mined because it was already out.

HAYES: Yes. I agree with Secretary Gates as it relates to the operational details of the raid. But I would actually make the opposite argument in a broader context. I think we should declassify everything that we can without affecting the operational ability that we got in the compound in Abbottabad. I think we should declassify the intelligence that led us to get Usama bin Laden. We have been having this national debate now for a decade about the way we gather intelligence and interrogate. This could clear up a lot if they declassified these documents.

BAIER: That is it for panel.

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