Bin Laden's Death Significant For White House

Tuesday marks one year from the day President Obama announced to the nation that Osama bin Laden had been killed. To underline the significance of the anniversary, the administration sent its counter-terrorism expert out on the airwaves Sunday. It also launched a controversial campaign ad about the raid against the al-Qaida leader.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the day President Obama announced to the nation that Osama bin Laden had been killed. The administration sent its counter-terrorism expert onto TV yesterday. It also launched a controversial campaign ad about the raid against the Al-Qaida leader.

We're going to talk about this and more with Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Mondays. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what argument is the administration making here?

ROBERTS: Well, it's very interesting how they put John Brennan, the counterterrorism expert, out on many of the Sunday television shows yesterday. And that's the way that works, Steve. You know, no matter who you might want to have on one of those programs, the administration rules and it determines it. And clearly what the president wanted everybody talking about yesterday was Osama bin Laden.

And John Brennan did say that he thought that al-Qaida was substantially reduced, but that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was still a big problem. But he was asked repeatedly about this ad that is running on the Web. It features Bill Clinton talking about the decision to go after bin Laden, and it superimposed over pictures of the Situation Room, the raid itself, and a picture of Obama standing alone in the Oval Office evoking a very famous picture of John Kennedy in the same pose.

And Clinton says the raid was a tough call but - and let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: The downside would've been horrible for him. But he reasoned, I cannot in good conscience do nothing. He took the harder and the more honorable path, and the one that produced, in my opinion, the best result.

ROBERTS: Then the ad asks in text: What would Mitt Romney do, and cites quotations from him about wasting resources going after one man. The Republicans are going after the ad as appropriate, a use of Osama for political purposes.

INSKEEP: There have been questions over the years about what kind of relationship President Obama has with President Clinton, former President Clinton. But here he is, prominent in this ad.

ROBERTS: And last night at a big fundraiser in Virginia, at his friend Terry McAuliffe's house, with President Obama, they think they raised about a million dollars there. Now, part of what's going on is that President Clinton is having President Obama help retire Mrs. Clinton, Secretary of State Clinton's debt from 2008. And that is something that often happens with former enemies.

And you know, President Clinton and President Obama do apparently now have a good relationship. But it is harder, I think, Steve, for someone to reconcile with a candidate who's gone after a relative, rather than yourself. So, you know, the Clintons and the Bushes have become friends, you know, the Carters and the Fords - those kinds of things happen. But the candidate who goes after your wife, that's a little tougher.

INSKEEP: So this is personal in a way. It can also be about money, as you mentioned.

Let's talk about another candidate who may have some debts to pay off. Newt Gingrich finally pulling out of the Republican presidential race this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Is Mitt Romney going to help him retire his debt?

ROBERTS: Yes, Gingrich has noticed that he's not winning. But there probably will be some kind of deal there, but that will be helpful to Mitt Romney if there is. Because the truth is, what he needs to do is get Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, and all of this Republican primary cast of characters, off the stage so that he can reposition himself for the general election campaign.

And if all he has to do is pay some money, that will be very helpful to him. But I don't think that you're going to see Newt Gingrich going quietly into this dark night.

INSKEEP: Cokie, enjoy the day.

ROBERTS: Thanks.

INSKEEP: Cokie Roberts, who joins us most Mondays mornings.

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