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The President’s Over-Reliance on His “Gutsy Call” April 28, 2012

Posted by geoff in News.

One of President Obama’s strongest arguments for reelection is his “gutsy call,” where he gave the go-ahead to send in the Seals to “get Osama.” I’m a fan of that decision – I thought it was a great message to terrorists, to Pakistan, and to the world. But I think that basing his campaign around it is a mistake, because he runs the risk of voters having thoughts he doesn’t want them to have:

  • Maybe the Decision Wasn’t All That Impressive: Ben Shapiro is trying to make the argument that Obama had as little skin in the game as was possible:

    …the memo doesn’t show a gutsy call. It doesn’t show a president willing to take the blame for a mission gone wrong. It shows a CYA maneuver by the White House.

    The memo puts all control in the hands of Admiral McRaven – the “timing, operational decision making and control” are all up to McRaven. So the notion that Obama and his team were walking through every stage of the operation is incorrect. The hero here was McRaven, not Obama. And had the mission gone wrong, McRaven surely would have been thrown under the bus.

  • Maybe the Decision Didn’t Matter: Face the Nation is about to have a special 1-year anniversary show on how terrorism has changed since the death of Osama. The answer is, I think, not much. Even David Ignatius said:

    He lived in a constricted world, in which he and his associated were hunted so relentlessly by U.S. forces that they had trouble sending the simplest communications.

    So he wasn’t much of a player in the global terrorism set. And the FBI and DHS don’t believe that the threat has diminished very much:

    “However, we assess that al-Qa’ida’s affiliates and allies remain intent on conducting attacks in the Homeland, possibly to avenge the death of bin Ladin, but not necessarily tied to next month’s anniversary,” according to the Bulletin sent to local law enforcement.

    So maybe removing OBL from the picture didn’t much matter.* Just like Romney and Bush said it didn’t.

  • Maybe He Didn’t Really Risk That Much: A key element of the “gutsy call” story is that Obama’s presidency was on the line – if the mission went south, his presidency was over. Sounds great, but his presidency was already over. Look at some of the headlines from the month before the mission (thanks to TPM):
    • Approval Of Obama’s Handling Of Economy Hits All-Time Low In Marist Poll
    • Poll: Obama Loses Ground To 2012 GOPers, Leads Romney By One Point
    • Poll: Obama’s Approval Rating Dives As Economic Pessimism Hits Two Year High

    This wasn’t a man risking his secure reeelection bid. This was a man throwing a Hail Mary pass to try to rescue his plummeting popularity.

  • Maybe Hearing More About It Is Actually a Negative: I think he’s diminishing the impact of his decision by continually trotting it out as the defining example of his Presidential timbre. Everybody knows he made that decision, and most people respect him for it. But as with everything, overexposure breeds indifference. And he runs the risk of having everybody realize that this is really the only bright spot in his foreign policy – in every other area the US is worse off than it was when he took office.

I know there’s a lot of “maybe’s” there, but I believe that like most of his other pitches, this one will blow up in the President’s face.

*On the other hand, we have this:

A year after the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks is essentially gone but its affiliates remain a threat to America, U.S. counterterrorist officials say.

Tthe article goes on to say that Al Qaida’s ability to hit domestic US targets has been greatly diminished. But the death of OBL didn’t bring this about – it was true before they found him in his compound.


1. Michael - April 28, 2012

Barack did not even have a choice. If he had refused to hit Osama, his decision would have leaked. He is smart enough to know that. If he had notified the Pakis, the ISI would simply have moved Osama elsewhere. If he had used a drone attack, the Pakis would have concealed the corpse, removed all DNA evidence, accused us of slaughtering women and children, and we would have no proof that Osama was dead. Sending in the Seals was really the only option.

2. Michael - April 28, 2012

In other words, his “gutsy call” was not even a call. It was just a situation forced upon him by the programs established during the Bush administration.

3. Michael - April 28, 2012

Jeebers, I can’t tell you how much this pisses me off.

“Gutsy call”?

In fact, it was the leadership of Bush that led to the death of Osama. It took time, it took the concerted effort of thousands of people, it took millions of dollars. But we got him.

Barack was not a factor.

4. digitalbrownshirt - April 28, 2012

So, how does it really make you feel Michael?

5. Michael - April 28, 2012

I ate an asiago cheese bagel, so I feel better. I have calmed down.

6. Mark in NJ - April 29, 2012

What I heard was that, while Bush *was* the mastermind, it was really Cheney (via use of Stealth Pacemaker technology) who led the SEAL team and put the first bullet in Bin Laden. And Obama hid under his desk after doing everything he could to sabotage the mission.

7. daveintexas - April 29, 2012

We don’t need to be spiking the football in the end zone.

No wait, we do need to be spiking the football in the end zone.

8. Russ from Winterset - April 29, 2012

I can’t really remember Bush or Cheney ever saying “I did this” when something good happened. They used to say “We did this”, “You did this” or “INSERT GROUP NAME HERE did this”.

Obama? Yeah, not so much.

9. Lipstick - April 29, 2012

Russ, bingo! I was thinking about that too.

This is all O has going for him, that he didn’t prevent the operation from going forward. Me Me ME! I’m awesome!


10. Lipstick - April 29, 2012

LOL, Mark in NJ

11. BrewFan - April 29, 2012

Lipstick you probably know this but on the off-chance you don’t, Mark in NJ is not trying to be funny so much as he is mocking us.

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