Arguments against the President “Valerie, may I?” story

**Posted by Phineas

Yesterday I posted an article about the assertion in a forthcoming book by journalist Richard Miniter that President Obama let himself be talked out of the bin Laden assassination mission three times, before finally okaying it, by long-time close adviser Valerie Jarrett, a corrupt slum-lord. Now that I’ve had 24 hours to calm down (1), there are reasonable arguments for questioning the story. I’ll present them here and let you decide:

Anonymous sources: Miniter cites “an unnamed source with Joint Special Operations Command who had direct knowledge of the operation and its planning.” The trouble with an unnamed source is that you have no way of verifying what the source is saying, because you don’t know who he or she is. You have to take the intermediary’s word (in this case, Miniter’s) that the source is credible, telling the truth.

What if the anonymous source was really in no place to know the things he claims? What if he’s making it all up to inflate his own importance? What if he observed things, but misinterpreted them? What if Miniter’s source and Ulsterman’s are one in the same? Then, instead of Miniter confirming the earlier piece, he’s merely repeating the same uncorroborated gossip. And (candy for the conspiracy buffs out there) what if the whole story is a Republican plant meant to embarrass Obama? It wouldn’t be the first time something like this has happened in American politics, that is, the press being used to bring down an opponent. From the reasonable to the wild, all these doubts show why we should be very careful of “anonymous insiders.”

In the end, it was his call, after all: The story paints a picture of Obama as indecisive, weak. As I put it, he ran to his political nursemaid to ask if launching the raid was a good idea, and she told him “no.”

But there’s another way to look at it. Obama is naturally cautious and diffident when faced with having to make a real decision, and invading the territory of an ally unannounced was darned risky — an act of war, without a doubt. And he is entitled to ask advice of anyone he chooses. Perhaps he felt the intel wasn’t solid enough and Jarrett’s arguments were enough to convince him of “not yet.” In other words, he sought advice, not permission. And he did, in the end, make the final decision to go.

Finally, Jim Geraghty at The Campaign Spot makes the following argument:

Put another way: apparently Valerie Jarrett made enemies like Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gibbs at times. You don’t think guys like that would leak something like that if they knew, in an effort to undermine her influence?

Point taken.

(Geraghty also makes a political observation we should keep in mind: the Obama administration would love to argue about Osama’s death from now until election day, because the discussion always ends with “and then we got him.”)

For what it’s worth, the White House has denied and denounced the report, while Miniter has dared them to prove him wrong:

The author of a new book describing presidential paralysis prior to the May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout is demanding the White House back up its vehement denials with documentation.

“I call on them to release the full [planning] timeline, starting in October 2010, of each of the major decisions that the president made relating to the bin Laden mission,” author Richard Miniter told The Daily Caller.

TheDC asked Miniter if his inside sources might go public with their accounts of presidential indecision. “Yes, yes,” he replied. “There is a chance.”

(via Nice Deb)

I hope the source does go public, since we, then, will be in a better position to make our own judgement. October surprise, anyone?

So, what do I think? At this point, I think it’s more likely true than not. Not because of Miniter’s or Ulsterman’s source(s), about whom we know nothing, but because it seems to fit with Obama and his long relationship with Jarrett. She has been a close patron and key counselor for Barack and Michelle Obama for many, many years. Close enough that the account in “Leading from Behind” is, I suspect, closer to the truth than not.

We’ll see.

(1) I freely and cheerily admit to having a “hot button” about 9/11, al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and a president’s proper response. Said response being “Hunt them down like rabid dogs and kill every last one of them!” And I get angry at any hint of softness on this issue. I doubt I’ll ever change.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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