In Obama campaign ad, Bill Clinton praises Osama bin Laden raid

Olivier Knox

The Obama campaign on Monday released another snippet of the 17-minute advertisement it stubbornly describes as a "documentary" of the president's three years in office. This one is devoted to making the case that giving the order to take out Osama bin Laden was not an easy call.

The 70-second clip stars Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton discussing Obama's decision to launch the May 2, 2011, raid inside Pakistan.

It opens with voice-over from Tom Hanks, who sets the scene by reminding viewers that intelligence placing the al-Qaida mastermind in a compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad was "promising but inconclusive" and underlining that "there was internal debate as to what the president should do."

Over still photos of Obama meeting with top national security advisers in the "Situation Room" operations center at the White House, Biden describes senior aides as saying: "It's a close call, Mr. President."

"As he walked out the room, it dawned on me. He's all alone. This is his decision," Biden stresses.

"He took the harder and the more honorable path," Clinton says on camera. "When I saw what had happened, I thought to myself, 'I hope that's the call I would have made.'"

The message is unmistakable: Obama alone made the decision to order the raid, unsure whether it would end in his highest-profile national security achievement to date or in a catastrophe akin to Jimmy Carter's April 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages in Tehran. (Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates compared the two raids in commencement remarks at the Naval Academy last year, recalling moments of deja vu in the ultimately successful raid.)

The short video looks geared to rebut Republican charges that Obama's foreign policy boils down to appeasing America's enemies—an accusation that Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have all made. (Ron Paul, keeping to his longstanding principles, has argued that Obama has been over-aggressive in putting U.S. forces in harm's way without explicit authorization from Congress.)

While voters say the struggling economy is the top worry on their minds ahead of the elections, and Obama generally gets higher grades on his handling of foreign policy, national security could easily reassert itself as a campaign issue.