If the Obama administration were a football team, its quarterback would have been penalized for excessive celebration. There’s that contemptible campaign ad in which Bill Clinton (who passed on numerous opportunities to get bin Laden) praised Obama’s courage and suggested that Romney wouldn’t have acted as decisively — an ad that even ultra-liberal Arianna Huffington declared “despicable.”
The President himself intimated that Romney would have failed to act (as Clinton repeatedly did). Charles Krauthammer and Brit Hume joined Huffington in disapproving, describing his remarks with the words “unseemly” and “Yuck.”
And then there was today’s victory lap around Afghanistan. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the President, whoever he is, visiting our troops and thanking them. But the timing — well, I’d say it’s unseemly, and yuck.
Michael Mukasey emphasized how unpresidential all this self-congratulation is (“It’s hard to imagine Lincoln or Eisenhower claiming such credit for the heroic actions of others”). He also pointed out that, according to a recently released memo, the President apparently approved the raid on condition of a “responsibility-escape clause” that basically said “It’s Admiral McRaven’s plan, so if it all goes south, he’s to blame.”
I agree that even if the President acted resolutely and decisively, this PR campaign is indeed unseemly and despicable. But I’d like to point out that that’s a big “if,” and I wish someone would remember the information I posted about on May 5, 2011, just days after the successful raid. Numerous sources at the time said bin Laden’s location had been known for some time, but the President had delayed making a decision. One anonymous White House source went further, providing a detailed (and believable) account of how the decision was finally made and who made it:
According to the source, Panetta, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, David Petraeus, and others had been pushing for weeks, maybe months, for an attack on the Abottabad compound. Valerie Jarrett was adamantly opposed. And the President couldn’t make up his mind. More than once, Obama seemed ready to agree and then, after Jarrett intervened, backed away.
With Clinton and Chief of Staff Bill Daley pledging their full support, Panetta went ahead with planning and preparation for the mission, and eventually gave the order for the SEALs to go in. The President was only informed (and rushed back to the White House) after the operation had begun.
So, is the President’s re-election campaign going to be centered around his taking credit for the courage of Leon Panetta?
Well, it can’t be centered around his domestic policy successes. He’s got nothing.