Axelrod: Romney’s criticisms over handling of China dissident ‘shameful’

Senior Obama strategist David Axelrod hammered likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney for his criticism of the administration’s handling of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. 

“I think what's shameful is when presidential candidates are so craven to score political points that they speak irresponsibly on half information at a time when the president is trying, and the administration is trying to resolve a situation that is very, very sensitive and very difficult,” Axelrod said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

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Chen, a blind human rights activist who has been under house arrest, sought refuge in the U.S. embassy last week. A deal to allow Chen to live with his family and receive regular contact with U.S. diplomats quickly unraveled last week after Chen said his family had been threatened by Chinese officials and that he wanted to leave the country.

Romney called the incident “dark day for freedom” and “a day of shame for the Obama administration.”

“We want to help Mr. Chen achieve his goal, which is to come here, and we want to do it in accordance with our values, and we want to be successful in doing that. And we're making some progress in that regard,” said Axelrod. “But it doesn't help to have candidates blunderbussing around, trying to score political points, when we're in the middle of that process.”


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Chinese officials have indicated that Chen can leave the country to “study abroad,” a potentially face-saving solution to the diplomatic stand-off.

Axelrod also defended the use of the killing of Osama bin Laden in a campaign video, saying the mission was a “legitimate part” of President Obama’s record.

“The Osama bin Laden mission was certainly part of the president's record, and we are talking about that,” he said.


Republicans have blasted administration efforts to politically tout what is arguably the president’s signature foreign policy achievement.

Last month, the administration released footage from an interview with former President Bill Clinton praising Obama for the decision to green-light the bin Laden raid and released an ad suggesting likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney would not have ordered the mission.

“The president hasn't been spiking the ball,” said Axelrod Sunday. “This was the one-year anniversary. It's part of his record. And it's certainly a legitimate part of his record to talk about.

“The president in the last campaign said that he would go wherever he had to, to hit high-value al Qaeda targets, including Osama bin Laden,” he added.


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“One of the first things he did when he got here into the presidency was order the CIA to make this a top priority. That's one of the reasons, that's the main reason why we were able to be in a position to find bin Laden.”

Axelrod said Obama’s decision to approve the bin Laden mission was “risky, dangerous.” “Bob Gates said it was one of the most courageous, one of the gutsiest decisions he saw, he's ever seen a president make, and it turned out successfully.

“If it hadn't, you'd better believe the other side would be talking about it, and Mitt Romney would be the first one,” he said.