WASHINGTON: The US President, Barack Obama, has seized on the imminent first anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death to say the al-Qaeda chief would probably still be alive if Mitt Romney had been president.
In the most strident attack so far on his Republican rival's credentials as a potential commander-in-chief, Mr Obama suggested Mr Romney would have demurred if given the opportunity to kill bin Laden.
A campaign advertisement released at the weekend highlighted Mr Romney's 2007 comment that it was ''not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars'' to find the ringleader of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The former president Bill Clinton, who is emerging as a key Obama campaigner, endorsed the President's decisiveness. ''The commander-in-chief gets one chance to make the right decision. Nobody can make that decision for you,'' he said.
The advertisement, called One Chance, backed with tense string music, strikes at the heart of Mr Romney's main claim for the US presidency: that he is the ruthless chief executive America needs to lift the country out of its economic doldrums.
Mr Clinton said that by risking the lives of US Navy SEALs - and his career - by ordering the raid on bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, Mr Obama ''took the harder and the more honourable path''.
While the Obama camp shied away from publicly celebrating the anniversary of passing its healthcare legislation, the thinking is quite different on the bin Laden anniversary.
NBC News has announced it had gained ''unprecedented access'' to the White House Situation Room, for an exclusive interview with the President that will screen tomorrow, the anniversary of the al-Qaeda leader's death.
Mr Romney, who has distanced himself from his 2007 remarks, said last year of Mr Obama's decision to authorise the bin Laden raid: ''Any president would have done that.''
Telegraph, London; Tribune Media