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Romney struggles with bin Laden line

Late last week, as part of the anniversary of the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, President Obama's campaign unveiled an ad that celebrated the successful strike, while asking, "Which path would Romney have taken?" Today, the presumptive Republican nominee tried to answer the question.

Seeking to neutralize one of President Obama's recent arguments, Mitt Romney said on Monday that "of course" he would have ordered military forces to make the 2011 raid that ended with the death of Osama bin Laden.

Asked by a reporter during an appearance here whether he would have gone after the al-Qaida leader, Romney responded: "Of course." He was then asked if he would have given the specific order to kill bin Laden.

"Of course," he said. "Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order."

Romney's cheap shot at the former president notwithstanding, there are a few noteworthy angles to this. The first is this notion, common in Republican circles, that this was an easy call for the president to make, and that anyone in the same position would have done the same thing.

The truth is far more complex. The president had a very difficult decision to make -- was the intelligence solid enough? Was it better to use a drone attack or send in U.S. troops? What role, if any, should Pakistan play, and what would be the consequences of going in without notifying Pakistani officials?

There's also the larger shift in administrative strategies. Whereas the Bush/Cheney administration made a conscious, deliberate decision to deemphasize capturing the al Qaeda leader, Obama chose to shift the emphasis back, making bin Laden a central focus of Obama's counter-terrorism strategy.

And then there's Romney's own stated positions. The former governor, who has no background in military policy, national security policy, or international affairs, really did say "it's not worth moving heaven and earth" to get the terrorist responsible for 9/11. Around the same time, Romney said he would not order a strike into Pakistan to get bin Laden, rejecting Obama's willingness "to enter an ally of ours" to target the terrorist leader.

This morning, Romney said "of course" he'd do what Obama did. It's effectively the same thing as saying, "Never mind everything I said during my first presidential campaign."