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?