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WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama's top adviser on terrorism brushed aside criticism by the president's political opponents that he has exploited the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden's killing for political gain.
"All that I know is that the president made the decision when he was given the opportunity to take a gutsy decision, to carry out that raid with our special forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan," said chief White House counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan.
"The president made that decision. I think the American people are, you know, clearly very appreciative and supportive of that decision. We're safer today as a result," Brennan told ABC television's "This Week" program.
Brennan noted that Obama took the decision to go forward with the raid against the advice of some of his most senior advisers who had reservations about the operation, which was fraught with peril for the Navy SEALS sent into Pakistan to carry it out in the dead of night.
Obama's campaign last week released a video to mark the anniversary and suggested that Osama bin Laden might be alive today had Republicans' soon-to-be presidential nominee Mitt Romney been in the White House.
Vice President Joe Biden hammered the point home by praising the administration's record on the economy as well as national security, saying on the stump last week that "thanks to President Obama, Bin Laden is dead and General Motor is alive.
"You have to ask yourself, had Governor Romney been President, could he... have used the same slogan in reverse?" Biden said in a speech last week.
But US Senator John McCain, who lost to Obama in the 2008 presidential election and who remains one of the president's most dogged critics, said last week that the advertisement politicized an issue that should not become fodder for November's presidential campaign.
"Shame on Barack Obama for diminishing the memory of September 11th and the killing of Osama bin Laden by turning into it a cheap political attack ad," he said.
"He's doing a shameless end zone dance to help get himself reelected. No one disputes that the president deserves credit for ordering the raid, but to politicize it in this way is the height of hypocrisy."
That criticism was echoed by top Romney campaign strategist Ed Gillespie, who said this newest polemic proves that Obama "has become one of the most divisive presidents in American history."
"He took something that was a unifying event for all Americans -- an event that Governor Romney congratulated him and the military and the intelligence analysts and our government for completing the mission in terms of killing Osama bin Laden -- and he's managed to turn it into a divisive, partisan, political attack, he said.
"I think most Americans will see it as a sign of a desperate campaign," said Gillespie.
In the upcoming presidential race, Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is seeking to unseat the Democratic incumbent Obama, mostly for what he says has been faulty stewardship of the economy. Like McCain he also criticizes the president's handling of military and security matters.
Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs meanwhile told NBC television that the success campaign to hunt down and kill bin Laden was "fair game" on the campaign trail.
"Just a few years ago President Obama, then a candidate, said in a speech if we have actionable intelligence of a high valued target in Pakistan we'd go in and get that high value target. Mitt Romney said that was foolish. He wouldn't do such a thing. That he wouldn't move heaven and earth to get Osama Bin Laden," Gibbs told NBC's "Meet the Press."
"Barack Obama... was brought actionable intelligence, directed the brave men and women in our military to go in and kill Osama bin Laden," said Gibbs.
"Osama bin Laden no longer walks on this planet today because of that brave decision, and the brave actions by the men and women in our military."