That was also the complaint of the Romney campaign, which charged the president's team with using the incident as a partisan wedge. "The killing of Osama bin Laden was a momentous day for all Americans and the world, and Governor Romney congratulated the military, our intelligence agencies, and the President," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an email. "It's now sad to see the Obama campaign seek to use an event that unified our country to once again divide us, in order to try to distract voters' attention from the failures of his administration."
But note the way the criticism of Romney is couched in the video: as an attack not just on his foreign-policy priorities, but on his decision-making capacity. "He had to decide, and that's what you hire a president to do," Clinton says. "You hire a president to make the calls when no one else can do it."
The idea that Romney's not a "decider" was also a theme of a long passage of Biden's Thursday remarks. Here's what the vice president said about Romney:
He starts with a profound -- a profound -- misunderstanding of the responsibilities of a president and the commander-in-chief.
Here's what he said, and I want to quote him exactly. And I quote: "If we want someone who has a lot of experience in foreign policy, we can simply go to the State Department." He went on to say, and I quote, "But that's not how we choose a president. A president is not a foreign-policy expert."
In my view, the last thing we need is a president who believes that he can subcontract our foreign policy to experts at the State Department, or for that matter, any other department or agency. Because here's how it works -- I've been around for eight presidents of the United States. I hate to admit. I know I don't look that old, right? But eight Presidents. That's not how it works .... No matter how experienced the team, no matter how wise the advice and counsel, to use that old expression, the buck literally stops on the president's desk in the Oval Office.
One of the toughest -- only the toughest decisions land on that desk. And as often as not, his advisers are in disagreement -- disagreements among themselves -- all smart people, but they disagree -- seldom completely unified .... I literally get to be the last guy in the room with the president. That's our arrangement. I can give him all the advice that I have and make my case, but I walk out of the room. He sits there by himself, the president sits there by himself and has to make the decision, often -- often -- reconciling conflicting judgments that are made by very smart, honorable, informed, experienced people.
And the president is all alone at that moment. It's his judgment that will determine the destiny of this country. He must make the hard calls. I'd respectfully suggest President Obama has made those hard calls with strength and steadiness. And the reason he has been able to is because he had clear goals and a clear strategy how to achieve those goals. He had a clear vision and has a clear vision for America's place in the world. He seeks all the help he can get from experts as to how to realize that vision, but ultimately he makes the decision.
So it seems to me, Governor Romney's fundamental thinking about the role of the president in foreign policy is fundamentally wrong. That may work -- that may work -- that kind of thinking may work for a CEO. But I assure you, it will not and cannot work for a president and it will not work for a commander-in-chief.
I was struck by the length and emphasis of this passage -- which is abridged here and was even longer in the speech -- departing as it did from a single Romney sound bite. While "a president is not a foreign policy expert" is obviously a clumsy thing to say, and underlines Romney's total lack of experience in world affairs, the idea that a president appoints smart people in key positions whose specialized expertise exceeds his own is a pretty accepted concept. (In fact, Romney made the same point as Biden in the very next sentence of the quotation the vice president cited, a December 2007 Fox News interview: "A president is not a foreign policy expert. A president is a leader who understands how to make difficult decisions and does so in a way that brings together the best voices, that considers the upsides and downsides and predicts the credibility and the strength that America has always projected in circumstances like this.")