Diminishing the office: Obama and credit for killing Bin Laden — Updated

**Posted by Phineas

This week marks the one-year anniversary since Seal Team Six sent Osama bin Laden to Hell. It also marks the time when a president who has little else to run on (and plenty to run from) touts his role in terminating the al Qaeda chief, promoting that as a reason to reelect him.

Now, I’m not one to say Obama cannot cite the Abbottabad raid; it was ultimately his responsibility as president, whether it succeeded or failed, so he has every right to list it as an accomplishment. But the way he has gone about it has been unseemly, crass, and beneath the president’s role as Chief of State and Commander in Chief, going so far as to smear his presumptive opponent, Mitt Romney, with the accusation that he would not have had the nerve to order the raid. An accusation like that is beneath contempt (1).

My blog-buddy ST has already written about how the tawdry manner in which Obama is exploiting the Abbottabad operation is raising the ire of former and serving Special Forces soldiers. Meanwhile, in an article for the WSJ, former federal judge and former US Attorney General (2) Michael Mukasey analyses how Obama claimed credit while dodging responsibility for the operation and then compares his self-aggrandizement to the manner in which prior wartime leaders have handled similar matters.

Mukasey begins with the almost giddy rush of the administration to gloat over the operation, showing almost no regard for the vast intelligence captured by telling the world we had it and thus alerting the enemy, and also naming SEAL Team 6, possibly leaving them exposed to a fatal revenge attack weeks later. All that is worth reading, but what I want to focus on is his comparison of the words of Obama at the time to operation’s announcement with those of Presidents Lincoln and George W. Bush, and General Eisenhower at similarly dramatic moments. First, President Obama:

“I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority . . . even as I continued our broader effort. . . . Then, after years of painstaking work by my intelligence community I was briefed . . . I met repeatedly with my national security team . . . And finally last week I determined that I had enough intelligence to take action. . . . Today, at my direction . . .”

President “I won” in his full glory.

Obama once said he’d like to be compared to Lincoln. Mukasey takes him up on that, compares Obama’s statement to the speech Lincoln gave upon announcing Lee’s surrender, thus effectively ending the Civil War, and finds him wanting. Compare the quote above to what Lincoln said to the assembled crowd:

We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace whose joyous expression can not be restrained. In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated. Nor must those whose harder part gives us the cause of rejoicing, be overlooked. Their honors must not be parcelled out with others. I myself was near the front, and had the high pleasure of transmitting much of the good news to you; but no part of the honor, for plan or execution, is mine. To Gen. Grant, his skilful officers, and brave men, all belongs. The gallant Navy stood ready, but was not in reach to take active part.

The 16th president of the United States, rendering full glory to others.

On D-Day, General (and future president) Eisenhower prepared a message for the landing’s success that exhibited a similar nobility of spirit:

“One week ago this morning there was established through your coordinated efforts our first foothold in northwestern Europe. High as was my preinvasion confidence in your courage, skill and effectiveness . . . your accomplishments . . . have exceeded my brightest hopes.

And Mukasey cites excerpts from George W. Bush’s statement upon the capture of Saddam Hussein:

He called that success “a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq.” He attributed it to “the superb work of intelligence analysts who found the dictator’s footprints in a vast country. The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force. Our servicemen and women and our coalition allies have faced many dangers. . . . Their work continues, and so do the risks.”

When Ike and W did mention themselves, it was only to speak of their pride in those who did the real work.

On the flip side, taking responsibility for failure, Mukasey contrasts the carefully crafted orders for the Abbottabad raid that would have left blame with the admiral in charge to the statements of Lincoln and Eisenhower, accepting responsibility for the failures of those below them. To this, we can add George W. Bush’s forthrightness in 2006, when he made himself accountable for the difficulties and failures to that point in Iraq, refusing to blame others.

Contrast these three leaders with Barack Obama’s careful shielding of himself from any responsibility, followed by his brassy “me and only me” spiking of the ball, and you’ll see just how the current incumbent not only diminishes the office he holds, but is also himself diminished by comparison to Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Bush.

Those three were Chiefs of State and Commanders in Chief.

Obama is just a cheap Chicago pol.

(1) Romney’s right. Even Jimmy Carter would have ordered the hit.
(2) And a real AG, not the cheap, corrupt knockoff we have in the office, now.

UPDATE: And right on cue, he proves my point — “Obama to address nation on the anniversary of Bin Laden’s death from Afghanistan.”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Navy SEALs not happy at Obama’s use of OBL kill as a re-election tool

Well, it looks like our celebrity Prez has overstepped – yet again – this campaign season by using the one year anniversary of the death of OBL as an election-year tool. Not only that, but he and his campaign have disgracefully suggested in so many words that Mitt Romney would not have made the same call last year to give Special Forces the go ahead to get Binny. Even further, his attempt at taking too much of the credit for the kill has rubbed some SEALs the wrong way. As BuzzFeed reports, their resentment towards this President is very real:

The frustration—or, even anger—within the SEAL community is real, and has been brewing for months, particularly among a politically conservative core of operators. It started immediately after the raid, with questions among the Special Forces and intelligence community of whether the president should have waited to announce the kill to exploit the intelligence cache at Osama’s compound. It simmered after a Chinook helicopter was shot down, killing 30 Americans, 22 of them Navy SEALs from Team Six.

Was it a coincidence, SEALs asked themselves, catastrophe hit Team Six so soon after being named as the team responsible for the killing?

The White House narrative on the Geronimo mission would soon come under scrutiny as well, after Chuck Pfarrer, a former member of Seal Team Six, published a book length account questioning the official version of the story. The controversial book was viciously attacked—a JSOC spokesperson called it a “fabrication”—and it was widely dismissed by the press.

What the pushback revealed, however, was an extreme sensitivity in the White House as to who would have the privilege to tell the Bin Laden story, best expressed in a compelling, if well stage-managed, story in the New Yorker. The piece recounted the Abbottabad raid based on interviews with senior administration and military officials, while imbuing the story with the drama of a SEAL’s eye view. Yet the author conceded he had not actually interviewed the men who did the shooting.

Over the past few days, I’ve reached out to a number of SEALs, both active duty and former. Most active duty SEALs were reluctant to go on the record venting or praising their boss, but one of the most interesting responses I received from an operator was to direct me to Leif Babin, a SEAL who left active duty last year.

Babin, who runs the consulting firm Echelon Front, wrote a little noticed op-ed in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal four months ago. The headline: OBAMA EXPLOITS THE NAVY SEALS. Babin took aim at “the president and his advisors, writing: “It is infuriating to see political gain put above the safety and security of our brave warriors and our long-term strategic goals.”

I don’t really have an issue with celebrating the anniversary of the killing of OBL, while giving full credit to the guys who put their lives on the line to get it done. I do have an issue, however, with the use of it as a campaign tool. Suggesting you are the guy who will do the best job of keeping America safe is one thing; but stepping on the toes of the guys who actually did the grunt work – and falsely painting your opponent as someone who would not have taken the same opportunity to give the go ahead at that crucial moment (especially when Romney has made clear in the past that he would have gone after OBL if he had been President), doesn’t really belong in any campaign, IMO.

What are your thoughts? Good or bad strategy? Should Team Obama retreat from this campaign tactic, or move full steam ahead?