Sen. John McCain said yesterday that former Gov. Mitt Romney's comments earlier this week about the importance of catching Osama bin Laden reflect a "naivete" about the war on terror.
Hosting a conference call with bloggers while on his announcement tour in Iowa, McCain was asked by writer Jennifer Rubin about Romney's remark in an AP interview Wednesday that "it's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person." McCain, who has largely avoided direct critiques of his GOP rivals, noted his hesitance to respond to his opponents' comments, but said he would make an exception for a national security matter.
"[I]t takes a degree of naivete to think he’s [bin Laden] not an element in the struggle against radical Islam," McCain said. A McCain aide indicated that the attack came because the question was raised and that it was "about a very serious issue." Responding to the gibe, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said his candidate "believes it's important that we continue to hunt down and capture or kill bin Laden," but reiterated the campaign's message about the broader war on terror.
"If other candidates believe that only one person should be our sole focus, instead of recognizing the larger threat of regional and global terrorist networks built by al-Qaeda and others and destroying them, then I think it has much less to do with naivete and instead is merely a disagreement," Madden said. "We would disagree with a candidate who thinks our military and [intelligence] efforts in the war on terror should only focus on one terrorist leader.
"McCain's tweak comes on the heels of his formal announcement this week were he touted his long experience and even his age as a key asset. Though Romney has devoted considerable time in the campaign to national security -- including a major speech Thursday in New York City on the threat of nuclear terrorism -- the one-term governor lacks any background in the military or foreign policy. Asked about his lack of experience in an interview with Politico Tuesday, Romney likened himself to Ronald Reagan, stating that the former governor was "one of the best foreign policy leaders our country has known" and was at "no disadvantage" despite his statehouse background.
If this is the best "shot" McCain can take at Romney, I'd say Romney is bulletproof. To insinuate that taking out bin Laden will magically end the war on terror is beyond naive. Nobody, including Romney, wants to discount the value of eliminating bin Laden, or the fact that he is the current #1 enemy of the United States, but there is no doubt that long lines of bin Laden wannabes would quickly take over his role as soon as we take him out.
If weeds are growing in the field and you trim the weeds down to the ground (a la McCain) they will grow back. Romney wants to rip them out by the roots and then spray the whole field with Roundup.