Does bin Laden <em>Still </em> Matter?

Matt Lewis

4/30/2007 1:00:25 PM - Matt Lewis

Jennifer Rubin has a good piece up today.  It deals with Mitt Romney's reported remarks about bin Laden -- and on John McCain's response ...

Friday afternoon (McCain) hosted his third conference call with these political bloggers. Uniquely among the Republican candidates he has committed to holding these calls every two weeks. They provide him with a forum to flash his humor and emphasize national security matters. On this week's call he added something to the mix. He took the opportunity on this latest call to make some news and ding one of his opponents for a gaffe on national security -- an issue he perceives as his strong suit.

The topic was Romney's reported remarks that Osama Bin Laden was "not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch."

In response to my question as to whether he agreed with that remark McCain responded that "I usually don't comment on other comments" but that this was a matter of national security. He explained that he believed there was evidence that Bin Laden still "exercises some operational control" over the killing of Americans in Iraq and that he remains a "symbol of Al Qaeda and the ideological struggle we're in."

...

He proclaimed that Bin Laden was the "quintessence of evil" and then said that his opponent Romney displays "naiveté" in failing to realize Osama Bin Laden's role and that the U.S. will defeat terrorism with the "psychological side" of the struggle. For emphasis he concluded his answer by saying "I disagree [with Romney's remarks] in the strongest terms."

Remember what happened when Howard Dean said that catching Saddam didn't make us any safer?  Does this have the same potential?  Probably not.

Here's why:  I've yet to read or hear Romney's remarks, in full.  Anyone who has been paying attention to politics this year knows that things are getting nasty -- and that it's easy to take comments out of context.  If Romney really believes that getting bin Laden doesn't matter, I strongly disagree with him. 

First, he must be forced to pay for his crimes.  Second, we need to set an example.  Third, his capture or death would bring a sense of closure to the families of 9-11 (of course, Romney might argue that "closure" is a bad thing -- if it causes us to forget that we are in a long war against all radical Islam -- not just one guy.)

I'm going to see if I can get some clarification from his camp ...

Update:  2:48 PM:  Liz Mair at GOP Progress writes: “I totally agree that Islamic terrorism is not going to drop off the face of the planet if we just catch Osama bin Laden, which was Romney's real point here ...

Update: 3:24 PM:  Gary Marx of Romney's campaign sends us the transcript:

LIZ SIDOTI: "Why haven't we caught bin Laden in your opinion?"

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY: "I think, I wouldn't want to over-concentrate on Bin Laden. He's one of many, many people who are involved in this global Jihadist effort. He's by no means the only leader. It's a very diverse group – Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and of course different names throughout the world. It's not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person. It is worth fashioning and executing an effective strategy to defeat global, violent Jihad and I have a plan for doing that."

SIDOTI: "But would the world be safer if bin laden were caught?"

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: "Yes, but by a small percentage increase – a very insignificant increase in safety by virtue of replacing bin Laden with someone else. Zarqawi – we celebrated the killing of Zarqawi, but he was quickly replaced. Global Jihad is not an effort that is being populated by a handful or even a football stadium full of people. It is – it involves millions of people and is going to require a far more comprehensive strategy than a targeted approach for bin laden or a few of his associates."

SIDOTI: "Do you fault the administration for not catching him though? I mean, they've had quite a few years going after him."

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: "There are many things that have not been done perfectly in any conduct of war. In the Second World War, we paratroopered in our troops further than they were supposed to be from the beaches. We landed in places on the beaches that weren't anticipated. Do I fault Eisenhower? No, he won. And I'm nowhere near as consumed with bin Laden as I am concerned about global Jihadist efforts."

Politico's Jonathan Martin has more...