When they aren't beating President Obama to death for not attending a rally in Paris on 36 hours notice, the political press has been beating itself into an excited frenzy over the news that former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) is a dressage horse-hair away from announcing a third bid for president. It was scant months ago that Romney was doing bad stand-up in the basement of the Home Depot in The Hunger Games' District 13, but the weakness of the GOP field gave Romney a lift in the early primary polls, and put that old fire back in his belly. That fire reached room temperature (which is "the boiling point" for everyone else) this past weekend when Romney told a room full of big GOP donors that he was seriously considering another run:
“I want to be president,” Romney told about 30 donors in New York. He said that his wife, Ann — who last fall said she was emphatically against a run — had changed her mind and was now “very encouraging,” although their five sons remain split, according to multiple attendees.
Since then, we've been treated to story after story about Romney's inexorable march toward the electoral buzz-saw, including this juicy, anonymously-sourced quote from a Romney supporter to The Boston Globe:
If Romney were president, one longtime adviser said, “There wouldn’t be an ISIS at all, and Putin would know his place in life. Domestically, things would be in better shape."
As far as that goes, he's probably right, because Osama bin Laden probably wouldn't have allowed it, and Mitt Romney would not have killed bin Laden. In 2011, Romney told Chuck Todd that pretty much any candidate would have approved the bin Laden raid, but the fact is that one candidate, and only one, would not have. In 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama described the scenario better than Miss Cleo could have:
“There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans,” he said. “They are plotting to strike again... If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”
While Barack Obama’s rivals attacked him vigorously over the statement at the time, not all of them did so on the basis of opposition to unilateral action. What did Mitt Romney say then?
“I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours… I don’t think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort,” Romney told reporters on the campaign trail.
…Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is one of the Republican front-runners, said U.S. troops “shouldn’t be sent all over the world.” He called Obama’s comments “ill-timed” and “ill-considered.”
“There is a war being waged by terrorists of different types and nature across the world,” Romney said. “We want, as a civilized world, to participate with other nations in this civilized effort to help those nations reject the extreme with them.”
So, Romney was against unilateral action (which Obama took in killing bin Laden), and wanted to keep Pakistan in the loop, which President Obama did not do lest they tip bin Laden off. It sounds like Mitt Romney would not have done what President Obama did. In comments to the Associated Press, Romney even seemed to rule out using US troops (like SEAL Team 6) at all:
Instead of issuing threats, the United States should work with nations to root out extremist forces, Romney said.
“We want as a civilized world to participate with other nations in this civilized effort to help those nations reject the extreme within them,” Romney said. “That doesn’t mean that our troops are going to go all over the world.”
Romney said the remarks were not helpful to the American effort.
Of course, this sort of revisionism is key to Romney's success as a candidate in 2016. As TPM points out, it's a running theme with Romney and his friends that he woulda, shoulda, coulda done everything better than Barack Obama. That's a message that will resonate with the electorate that Republicans are going after, even if the facts say that under Mitt Romney, we'd still be two years away from a 6% unemployment rate. Romney has positioned himself as a "do-over" to the Obama presidency, and Republicans have done little to make a better argument than that.