NEW YORK — Republican Mitt Romney said Tuesday that it was "totally appropriate" for President Barack Obama to claim credit for taking out Osama bin Laden a year ago but that his decision to politicize a unifying event for the country was not.
Obama's re-election campaign has used his decision to order the U.S. military raid that ended with the 9/11 mastermind's death to suggest that Romney would not have made the same call. Romney, the president's all-but-certain Republican challenger in the fall election, says he would have made the same decision.
Marking the anniversary at a New York City fire house that lost 11 men on Sept. 11, 2001, Romney said he understood the president's desire to take credit for killing one of the world's most-wanted men.
"It's totally appropriate for the president to express to the American people the view that he has that he had an important role in taking out Osama bin Laden," Romney said after visiting the lower Manhattan fire station with Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor when terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center's twin towers and killed nearly 3,000 people.
"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," Romney said.
He and Giuliani had just eaten pizza with fire fighters.
Romney insisted that he, too, would have ordered the strike on bin Laden's hideout.
"Of course I would have ordered taking out Osama bin Laden," Romney said outside the fire house, echoing comments from a day earlier. "This is a person who had done terrible harm to America and who represented a continuing threat to civilized people throughout the world. Had I been president of the United States I would have made the same decision."