In an interview with senior Mitt Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie on Sunday's Meet the Press, moderator David Gregory noted how President Obama was "certainly using" the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama Bin Laden "against Governor Romney" and quickly justified the crass political move by claiming "the same sort of tactics that were used in a lot of people's eyes" by President Bush.
After playing a sound bite of Vice President Biden suggesting Mitt Romney would not have ordered the killing of Bin Laden, Gregory proclaimed: "Here's an example, back in 2004, of an ad that he [President Bush] ran as he was running for reelection....Using images from the World Trade Center. A lot of people see that as the very same thing. Is it not?"
Gillespie pushed back: "...the difference here is you don't see – you know, you see in the Bush ad saying, you know, he's a strong leader. You don't see him saying, "And that guy [John Kerry], you know, would have done something different."
Gregory argued: "Vice President Cheney made it very clear that his view was that America's defenses would be down and it would be vulnerable to a terrorist attack if John Kerry had been elected president. So is it any different?"
Following the earlier clip from Biden, Gillespie condemned the attack: "You know, David, this is one of the reasons President Obama has become one of the most divisive presidents in American history. He took something that was a unifying event for all Americans....And he's managed to turn it into a divisive, partisan, political attack..."
Before moving on to other topics, Gregory demanded: "Is America safer because of President Obama's leadership?"
Here is a transcript of the April 29 exchange:
DAVID GREGORY: Ed Gillespie, you are no stranger to presidential politics. Former head of the party, counselor to President Bush, and now a senior advisor to Mitt Romney in a new role. And so, as you settle in, here is the Obama campaign very much going on the offensive. And I mentioned Osama Bin Laden. One year later. They are certainly using that issue against Governor Romney. Here was the Vice President on Thursday.
JOE BIDEN: Thanks to President Obama, Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. You have to ask yourself, if Governor Romney had been president, could he have used the same slogan – in reverse?
GREGORY: The argument's clear. That Governor Romney would not have made killing Osama Bin Laden a priority.
GILLESPIE: You know, David, this is one of the reasons President Obama has become one of the most divisive presidents in American history. He took something that was a unifying event for all Americans, an event that Governor Romney congratulated him and the military and the intelligence analysts in our government for completing the mission in terms of killing Osama Bin Laden.
And he's managed to turn it into a divisive, partisan, political attack that former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci for President Reagan called "sad." John McCain called "shameful." I think most Americans will see it as a sign of a desperate campaign.
GREGORY: It's interesting, though, if you compare it to the president you worked for, President Bush, and some of the same sort of tactics that were used in a lot of people's eyes. Here's an example, back in 2004, of an ad that he ran as he was running for reelection. Let me show it to you.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message.
NARRATOR: The last few years have tested America in many ways. Some challenges we've seen before, and some were like no others
GREGORY: Using images from the World Trade Center. A lot of people see that as the very same thing. Is it not? Focusing on...
GILLESPIE: I say-
GREGORY:..leadership moments of a president?
GILLESPIE: Yeah, I think there's a little bit of a distinction here, though, David. I think if, you know, President Obama had said – even though he said we wouldn't spike the football, you know, at the time of this momentous occasion regarding Osama Bin Laden – had said, you know, "I'm proud of this." I think people would have said you should be proud of this. We're proud as a country that this happened.
It's the extra iteration. It's the attack that, you know, Governor Romney wouldn't have done it. I can't envision, having served in the White House, any president having been told, "We have him. He's here. Should we go in?" saying, "No, we shouldn't." So the difference here is you don't see – you know, you see in the Bush ad saying, you know, he's a strong leader. You don't see him saying, "And that guy, you know, would have done something different." I mean I think that's the-
GREGORY: Right. But I come to the 2004 campaign and Vice President Cheney made it very clear that his view was that America's defenses would be down and it would be vulnerable to a terrorist attack if John Kerry had been elected president.
GREGORY: So is it any different?
GILLESPIE: David, what we talked about – and, again, we can go back and talk about, what's that now? Eight years ago. You know, the record of Senator Kerry, which is what I remember talking about on this show a number of times, was the record. This is an attack on something that might have not happened. You know, just – it's a bridge too far.
Again, I think the American people will see through it and I think that Secretary Carlucci was, you know, when he said it was "sad" and Senator McCain said it's "shameful," I suspect most Americans would look at those comments and probably not disagree with those assessments.
GREGORY: Is America safer because of President Obama's leadership?
GILLESPIE: I think that America is not as strong as we should be. And I think that if you look at the perceptions of America across the country, you look at the – you know, our relationship, the reset button with Russia, and you know telling – "Please tell Putin we'll be more flexible later," our relationships with Israel, I don't think that President Obama – under President Obama America is as strong as it should be or will be under a President...
GREGORY: But my question...
DAVID GREGORY: ...is America safer under President Obama's leadership?
GILLESPIE: I – you know we may be – I think we're safe, we haven't been subject to attack. But I don't know that that's – you know I'm not sure – I don't know enough in terms of the intelligence. I used to know that. But I don't believe that President Obama – under President Obama we are as strong as we should be as a nation. And I believe that under a President Romney we would be stronger.