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Rove picks the wrong fight over OBL killing

In November, Karl Rove's attack operation, Crossroads GPS, took a Bill Clinton quote out of context in order to launch a wildly misleading criticism of President Obama on taxes.

Today, Rove took another Bill Clinton quote out of context to launch another wildly misleading criticism of President Obama, this time on counter-terrorism.

Here's what Rove wrote in his new Wall Street Journal column:

As for the killing of Osama bin Laden, Mr. Obama did what virtually any commander in chief would have done in the same situation. Even President Bill Clinton says in the [Obama campaign's documentary] film "that's the call I would have made." For this to be portrayed as the epic achievement of the first term tells you how bare the White House cupboards are.

Greg Sargent noticed the problem with Rove's dishonesty.

[I]t's true, Clinton did utter those words. But here's the full quote from Clinton, at the 12:30 mark in the film: "He took the harder and the more honorable path. When I saw what had happened, I thought to myself, 'I hope that's the call I would have made.'" In Rove's telling, Clinton said, "that's the call I would have made. What Clinton actually said was, "I hope that's the call I would have made."

It's almost as if Rove used his column, with his editors' permission, to lie to the public.

But let's take this a little further still, and note the larger Republican goal: Rove and a lot of other folks on the right desperately hope Americans won't consider the strike on bin Laden to be a key Obama accomplishment. They're wrong, but it's clearly part of a larger effort.

Whereas the initial GOP reaction to the bin Laden killing was to try to give Bush/Cheney partial credit for the mission, the new Republican line is that the mission itself was no big deal -- anyone in the Oval Office would have done the same thing, the argument goes.

The facts matter. Whereas the Bush/Cheney administration made a conscious, deliberate decision to deemphasize capturing the al Qaeda leader, Obama chose to shift the emphasis back.

[F]rom early in his administration Obama was focused on killing Osama Bin Laden and that he was involved in the process throughout. In June 2009, Obama directed his CIA director to "provide me within 30 days a detailed operation plan for locating and bringing to justice" Osama Bin Laden. By August 2010 intelligence officials had identified the suspicious compound where Osama lived.

It was Obama who instructed the CIA to make targeting bin Laden a top priority, breaking with his predecessor. It was Obama who oversaw five national security meetings to oversee plans for this operation. It was Obama who chose this mission, made final preparations, and gave the order.

If Rove and other Republicans want to spend 2012 debating whether Obama deserves credit for this accomplishment, I suspect the president's re-election team would be delighted. Rove's playbook says to attack a rival where he/she is strong, but in this case, he's doing Chicago a huge favor.