ABC’s Teddy Davis reports: When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney seemed to downplay the value of catching Osama Bin Laden this week by saying that "it’s not worth moving heaven and earth (and) spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person,” Howard Dean’s Democratic National Committee was quick to pounce.
"It seems Mitt Romney and his Republican cohorts need to be reminded that Osama Bin Laden was the mastermind behind the September 11th attack on America," said DNC Communications Director Karen Finney.
Four years ago, it was Dean who was getting pummeled for saying something impolitic about the Al Qaeda leader.
“What in the world were you thinking?” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., asked of Dean at an Iowa debate one month after the former Vermont governor told the Concord Monitor in December 2003 that he did not want to “pre-judge” Bin Laden’s guilt before his case was put to a jury.
Dean defended his Bin Laden comments by saying that he understood that the Al Qaeda leader has “essentially claimed responsibility for these unbelievable terrorist acts,” adding that as an American, he wanted to see Bin Laden get “what he deserves, which is the death penalty.”
Dean said, however, that as a candidate for president of the United States, he was “obligated to stand for the rule of law.”
After coming under fire Friday from Dean’s DNC for his Thursday interview with the Associated Press, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden explained his boss’s comment by telling ABC News that the former Massachusetts governor believes — and has stated "time and time again — that in order to "confront these threats we have to focus on the larger problem of the global Jihad and break down entire regional global terror networks of al-Qaeda and others."
There are probably just as many foreign policy experts who agree with Romney that defeating global Jidhadism will take more than capturing one person as there are legal scholars who agree with Dean about the value of preserving a presumption of innocence.
But in the wake of an experience as searing as 9/11, presidential politics are not always rational.
As a clearly frustrated Dean told Kerry at their 2004 debate, “A gaffe in Washington is when you tell the truth and the Washington establishment thinks you shouldn’t have.”