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

Posted by: ST on May 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

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?

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21 Responses to “Navy SEALs not happy at Obama’s use of OBL kill as a re-election tool”


  1. Phineas says:

    We’re thinking along the same lines — I’ll have an article to post later about Commanders in Chief and taking credit and blame.

    Regarding the Obama campaign’s exploitation of OBL’s killing for political purposes, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. He has every right to tout that as an achievement, but the manner in which he is doing it –the narcissism and the insults toward Romney– demeans his office and shirks his role as Chief of State. It shows none of the nobility we’ve expected of our presidents, from Washington (the paragon of such virtue) through Bush II. Once again, Obama shows himself to be nothing but a cheap Chicago pol.

    With regard to the ire among present and former SEALs, the expression of such opinions by some active-duty personnel (I read an unsourced quote in another article) makes me uncomfortable. Our tradition of civil-military relations is that, while you wear the uniform, you stay away from politics. Talk among yourselves and your families, express your ire at the voting booth, but when the press comes calling for a comment on a political matter, which this is, just say “no comment.”

    That said, the resentment they feel is understandable.

  2. Great White Rat says:

    Killing OBL was a great triumph – for the Seal Team and for America. For Obama, not so much.

    Now, he’s entitled to take some of the credit, since it happened on his watch. But that’s the extent of it.

    For one thing, We now know that Obama had a scapegoat ready if the mission failed. If it succeeded, he could preen and boast about what HE did. If it failed, then it would be someone else’s fault. In other words, we see the classic pattern of a narcissistic personality. Bet that comes as a complete shock to you, huh?

    Second, where’s the acknowledgement that he was wrong to impugn the work done for years by military and CIA interrogators that led to the discovery of bin Laden’s hideout? You want an “inconvenient truth”? Here’s one: if we’d followed Obama’s advice during the Bush years, we wouldn’t have been able to execute this mission.

    The nauseating part is Obama’s self-aggrandizement. Read Bush’s remarks about Saddam Hussein’s capture: he uses the work “I” once – and that’s to praise the work of the troops. Obama’s remarks are all about how important his contribution was to the OBL mission.

    And as for the ugly insinuations that Romney wouldn’t have done the exact same thing – aren’t these the same liberals who spent years screaming that no one was allowed to question their patriotism?

  3. Carlos says:

    While I’m not sure any death should be “celebrated,” I’m not unhappy to mark the death of an obviously sociopathic ideologic nutcase.

    That said, I find little reason for Obama to use it as a campaign tool, considering he “OK’d” the operation in such a way that had anything gone wrong, he would have been completely faultless. His weasel-worded “OK” was such that he, Obama, in fact did NOT give the go-ahead for the raid that ended bin Laden’s life. That was the function of the military commander, pure and simple. For Obama to take credit for the decision is, though, in reality no less disingenuous than anything else he takes credit for.

  4. Zippy says:

    He’s an exploiter. Plain and simple. He will use any tactics possible to gain favor. He’s a deviant narcissist with deep issues around acceptance. He’s not a man, he’s a child attempting to play a man’s game.

  5. Dana says:

    I’d suggest that it was a poor tactic, given that it’s already backfiring, but that the shot was taken so early as to not mean much for the campaign.

    Consider it a trial balloon: if it works, it’ll get hauled out again in September and October, and if it doesn’t, it won’t.

    Bill Clinton was right: it’s the economy, stupid! If the economy has shown signs of a decent recovery that is actually apparent to the voters, rather than just statistics, by October, President Obama will be re-elected, and if it doesn’t, he won’t.

  6. Libertarian Advocate says:

    It seems to me that it is S.O.P. of the unaccomplished in positions of authority (whether in public or private sector management) to take credit for the work and ideas of others who are far more accomplished than the one purloining the credit. No doubt anyone one of those Geronimo SEALS is far more accomplished than this POTUS by the time they’ve hit their 26th birthday.

  7. PACNW Righty says:

    ST; Two thoughts ran through my mind during the lengthy news coverage that Osama had been killed. The first was good on Obama for making the call to actually have this mission executed. It did take some guts to give the go-ahead to basically invade another country and capture/kill someone on that country’s soil. Even if his only reason for doing so was politically motivated, Obama still took a chance.

    But the second thought was what on earth are these folks doing, refering to the adminisration people touting this almost before Osama’s body had cooled. As former military member, I realized what a cache of intel could be had even if bin Laden wasn’t really the center of activity he might have once been. I didn’t even work in the intelligence field and I saw the value right away. Did any of his military advisors counsel him to keep this under wraps for a short period of time while the data was gleened for useful information? It would really be a shame if so advised, Obama and his crew went ahead and released the news for political purposes.

  8. Gravelagitator says:

    Everyone should realize that if obama had any real input into this it would not have happened until October, 2012. It was laid in his lap and he HAD to do something. Even the janitor in the hall would have said “take him out” given that opportunity. This clown had to be dragged kicking and screaming from the golf course and forced to make a grown up decision.

  9. TexasMom2012 says:

    I once worked for a man like Obama. His underlings did all the work and he took all the credit by making sure he was the conduit through with all communication with the company branches went through him. He wouldn’t even let us go to the restroom without notifying him in case he had a call and needed an answer. We would get him the info, he would pick up the phone and say ‘I have your info right here’, he must have also denigrated us to those managers because if he was away they wouldn’t even ask us the question! When I started in the department, I was able to completely make over the filing system (with the blessing of the CEO) and was able to find a half million dollars worth of inventory that has been shipped but never billed! And yet the department manager never acknowledged my help… It was always “I, Me, My”, it was 30 years ago but I recognized him in Obama.

  10. T-Steel says:

    I find this whole flap horribly hypocritical. You can’t have your cake and eat it to. Either the Prez gets the credit or not. If former President Bush actually found loads of WMDs in Iraq, you know he would have used it in a campaign against Al Gore. You can bet on that. And you know what, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it. So I’m fine with President Obama using the killing of OBL in a political ad. It runs against the narrative that he’s flimsy on foreign policy.

    I think Romney is backwards if he feels this is his ticket to the White House.

  11. Sefton says:

    You want hypocrisy? Since we’re talking hypotheticals, ask yourself how the left would’ve reacted if this operation had been given the green light by Bush. Hell, the UN would have been first in line condemning us for transgressing into a sovereign nation and assassinating someone, and the now so-called “patriotic” leftist media in this country would’ve joined right in damning the Bush administration and the military. Trust me, it wouldn’t be pretty.

    Either the Prez gets the credit or not.

    No one is questioning his (correct) decision to go. But you’ve also apparently missed the “convenient memo” story and the fact that anyone worth their salt or had any class would not self-direct the spotlight on himself for political gain. And, no, I don’t think Bush would do what you said he would. Because, whatever his shortcomings, he has the trait of humility – a foreign word to someone like Obama, because it’s ALL about him.

  12. Drew the Infidel says:

    @T-Steel–Your political savvy, or lack thereof, reminds me of the job Bob Beckel did running Mondale’s campaign; he managed to lose 49 states.

    We knew something like this was coming when the “secret” wraps came off the operation taking out bin Laden, who couldn’t die soon enough to suit me. The morning after there were 18 different versions of events floating around (he had a gun, he didn’t have a gun, etc.) and now we find Follywood had inside access. What’s next?

  13. Great White Rat says:

    Come on, T-Steel, you’re usually much better than that. As Sefton says, no one is questioning his correct decision to proceed with the mission.

    But go back and read my comment above. There are three things that go a long way to tarnish this achievement.

    The first is his ego. James Taranto has a good analogy in the WSJ today: what if Richard Nixon claimed that the moon landing in July 1969 was all because of him, and not because of years of hard work – under Democrat administrations, mind you – by NASA scientists, engineers, and technicians? Would that strike you as a ridiculous claim?

    But to make the analogy more accurate, what if Nixon had spent years demonizing and criticizing the work of NASA before the moon mission, and then tried to claim primary credit for its success? Again, would you be defending that with “I wouldn’t have a problem with it”?

    His narcissism is diminishing the one legitimate achievement of his administration.

    Second is the memo that has come to light recently that shows he had a Navy admiral set up as the one to take the blame if the mission failed. Real leaders – Lincoln and Eisenhower, to name two – accept the responsibility for failures. Obama once again proved he is no leader. Can you name me one time he’s accepted the blame for his multitude of failures over the past 3+ years? For the miserable economy, for example, he’s blamed everything up to and including ATMs – but never once any of his policies. Face it – in this job, he’s in way over his head, and this is more evidence.

    Finally, there’s the outrageous suggestion that Romney might not have approved this mission, and in an ad featuring Bill Clinton no less – the one man who actually did turn down opportunities to get bin Laden. This one is drawing fire even from your fellow left-wingers, like Arriana Huffington, who called it “one of the most despicable things you can do”. The Romney campaign had the perfect riposte to that by saying even Jimmy Carter would have approved that mission. Who can deny that? So far, no one who worked in the Carter White House has.

    So if Obama wanted to make an ad simply reminding us that the Seal Team did a remarkable job gettin OBL on his watch, I’d have no problem with that. Instead, he approached this with the narcissism, lack of leadership, and cheap Chicago thuggery we’ve come to expect of him. THAT is the reason he might yet manage to turn the OBL mission into a negative for his campaign.

  14. Phineas says:


    But to make the analogy more accurate, what if Nixon had spent years demonizing and criticizing the work of NASA before the moon mission, and then tried to claim primary credit for its success? Again, would you be defending that with “I wouldn’t have a problem with it”?

    His narcissism is diminishing the one legitimate achievement of his administration.

    Excellent observation.

  15. T-Steel says:

    First, I did not vote for Obama in 2008. I’ve been a lifelong 3rd party voter. So my defense of him isn’t from a partisan viewpoint. Second, your right GWR. I’m better than what I said. My reaction is more out of the frustration with the language used by Obama’s critics on this: “shameless”, “classless”, “despicable”, etc. See, I don’t give a rat’s ass about him celebrating and taking the victory lap over the killing of evil SOB OBL. It happened on his watch, take the damn credit. I had NO problem with Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” and flight suit optics. I get it.

    Now I also get the whole distaste at the Obama Campaign saying the Romney wouldn’t do the same based on past statements. But I’ve been routinely reminded that “politics is a rough business”. I didn’t like the whole Jeremiah Wright flap but hey, it was Obama’s church and fair game. Romney did make those “OBL not worth it statements” so fair game. As to what you brought up concerning the fall guy situation, I’m in a wait and see about that. And for the record, a President Romey would have made the same call.

    Now I can’t argue with you GWR about the economic stuff. President Obama has been TERRIBLE on his approach and strategy. The fact he went guns blazing on health care instead of employment is way nuts. Even if the economy didn’t improve much, you at least can say you been busting your ass to get it back.

  16. T-Steel says:

    And Drew, I have no political savvy whatsoever. I’m just a regular guy livin’ in South Carolina country. If I was running a presidential campaign, I would do it the way I played defensive end in college: dirty, un-PC, a big mouth, and giant-sized attitude (aka “good at my job hittin’ folks on the field”). Not good for the civilized folk. :d

  17. Drew the Infidel says:

    I rest my case.

  18. T-Steel says:

    And a good rest it shall be. LOL!