Romney in 2001 on the Relative Dangers of Animal Rights Activists and Al Qaeda
As an organizer for the 2002 Winter Olympics, Romney drew attention to the threat of animal rights extremists while dismissing concerns about jihadists targeting the games.
In the flurry of tidbits that were pulled from the 2008 McCain campaign's oppo research on Mitt Romney (rediscovered and posted by BuzzFeed on Tuesday night), a familiar narrative takes hold: Romney is a compulsive flip-flopper who says and does weird, out-of-touch things.
In the chapter of the oppo book labeled "Terrorism," the McCain campaign paints one-time rival Romney as soft on Al Qaeda. One way of doing this was, apparently, to highlight Romney's bizarre post-9/11 priorities. As you probably could have guessed, the real "gotcha" moment of chapter is the (by now old) news of Romney saying in April 2007 that it would not be "worth moving heaven and earth, spending billions of dollars just trying to catch [Osama bin Laden]." But on page 78, the '08 McCain researchers target Romney's emphasis on a very different kind of terrorism—animal rights extremism:
After hijacked jetliners smashed into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, Utahns began openly wondering if the 2002 Winter Games might become a target of Islamic terrorists. But Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney, in a meeting with the Deseret News shortly after the attacks, downplayed any threat posed by Osama bin Laden, explaining instead that the real threat of terrorism against the Winter Olympics lay with home-grown terrorists acting under the flag of animal rights.
That passage was taken from the opening lines of a story published in Salt Lake City's the Deseret News in mid-November 2001. Deprived of context, the quote does make Romney look naïve, dismissive, and insensitive—and just two months after the 9/11 attacks!