Politics

May 3, 2012
 

Obama’s Trip to Afghanistan Eclipses Bin Laden Debate

President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai sign a strategic partnership agreement Tuesday. Afghan Presidential Palace photo via Getty Images.

Mitt Romney got a stark reminder Tuesday of just how difficult it is to run against an incumbent president who has command of the bully pulpit.

Appearing alongside former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Romney earned headlines early in the day by saying any American would have given the order to kill Osama bin Laden, keeping a few days’ worth of debate afloat with a message that might have carried the presumptive Republican nominee through the news cycle.

That all changed just before 3 p.m. ET, when news outlets were allowed to report that President Obama had snuck away from Washington in the dark of night to visit Afghanistan. The president’s trip zapped all other news, including Romney’s remarks.

For the next five hours it was all about Mr. Obama, who signed a new pact with Afghan President Hamid Karzai outlining the long-term U.S. commitment to the war-torn nation and firming his plan to remove combat troops this year.

But it does not cement specific numbers of how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014. “Those are decisions that must be made by the U.S. Congress,” an administration official told reporters traveling on the secret trip before the speech.

Mr. Obama’s speech was timed for a U.S. audience, and it was the first-ever televised address to the nation delivered from a war zone.

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