Romney, delivering pizza to firefighters with Rudy Giuliani, says it’s a mistake to politicize the killing of bin Laden

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Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. (Reid Pillifant)
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This afternoon, on the first anniversary of the killing of the man who authored 9/11, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani brought pizzas to a firehouse on Sixth Avenue. Then they criticized President Obama for attempting to capitalize on the issue.

"I think politicizing it and trying to draw a distinction between himself and myself was an inappropriate use of the very important event that brought America together, which was the elimination of Osama bin Laden," Romney said, after some brief remarks in which he praised everyone who was part of the operation, including the president.

After Obama initially said he wouldn't "spike the football" over bin Laden's killing, his re-election campaign has taken the first anniversary as an occasion to question whether Romney would have had the courage to make the same decision.

"Of course I would have ordered taking out Osama bin Laden," Romney said, in response to the first of just a few questions he took from the dozens of reporters and cameramen. "Of course. This is a person who had done terrible harm to America and represented a continuing threat to a civilized people throughout the world.

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"And if I had been president of the United States, I would have made the same decisions the president made, which was to remove him. I acknowledged actually a year ago when this was announced that the president deserved credit for the decision he made, I continue to believe that and certainly would have taken that action myself."

In 2007, when he was also running for president, Romney said that he wouldn't enter an ally's territory without permission; as the Obama campaign frequently points out, this policy, if he stuck to it, would have precluded him from ordering the in to get bin Laden.

"No, I think I said the same thing as [Joe Biden], which was it was naive of the president to announce he would go into Pakistan," Romney said. "We always reserved the right to go anywhere to get Osama bin Laden. I said that very clearly in the response that I made. But there were many people who believed, as I did, that it was naive on the part of the president, at that time the candidate, to say he would go into Pakistan. It was a very, if you will, fragile and flammable time in Pakistan and thought it was a mistake of him as a candidate for the president of the United States to say he would go in."

Romney was interrupted midway through the brief press conference by a loud female heckler who screamed "Mitt Romney is a racist!" over and over, and then, "Fuck you Mitt Romney! Stop criminalizing immigrants!"

Romney didn't acknowledge her except to say "I'm sorry I can't quite hear you" to a reporter asking a question.

For Giuliani, it marked his first real surrogate work on Romney's behalf, after an official endorsement last week, which only served to highlight his prior criticisms of his chief rival from the 2008 campaign.

He echoed and extended on Romney's criticism of Obama's campaign.

"If he wants to take credit for it, I have no problem with that at all," Giuliani said. "I wish he wouldn't use it as a source of negative campaigning. I think that's a big mistake and I think he's mischaracterizing what Mitt Romney said. He basically said it shouldn't be our only priority. I seem to recall candidate Obama said the same thing back then. And almost everybody else, of course it shouldn't be our only priority."

Giuliani, who, unusually, praised Obama's handling of the raid immediately afterward, said today it was clear that "Mitt Romney, or anybody else, would have made the same decision."