Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 2, 2011

THE 2008 DEBATE, REVISITED.... In July 2008, CNN's Larry King interviewed then-presidential candidate John McCain. The host asked the Republican senator, "If you were president and knew that bin Laden was in Pakistan, you know where, would you have U.S. forces go in after him?"

McCain said he would not.

"Larry, I'm not going to go there and here's why: because Pakistan is a sovereign nation."

This point of contention from the 2008 campaign has generally been forgotten, but for a couple of months, this was a major area of debate. Barack Obama declared he would pursue high-value terrorist targets in Pakistan, launching limited attacks based on actionable intelligence. Republicans insisted this was not only the wrong policy, but that the position was evidence of Obama's inexperience in matters of national security.

Even Mitt Romney tried a similar tack during a nationally televised GOP debate:

"[Obama] went from going to sit down to tea with our enemies, but then he's going to bomb our allies. I mean, he's gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in one week."

With the benefit of hindsight, I'm comfortable concluding now that Obama was right and his Republican critics were wrong.

Steve Benen 9:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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rubber/glue

Posted by: gus on May 2, 2011 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

The republicans are praising the troops & BUSH!!!!!
This was an Obama strategy. Bush did not dare to go into Pakistan!

Posted by: js on May 2, 2011 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Nice catch.

McCain will doubtlessly be on the news today saying he was all for this in 2008, and Romney will claim his stance was "DOUBLE PAKISTAN!"

Posted by: TR on May 2, 2011 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Bush might have dared, but the scary brown terrorist bogeyman was far more useful to him alive.

Posted by: jTh on May 2, 2011 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I remember McCain's comment, too.

I laughed, because I was under the impression that Afghanistan and Iraq were sovereign nations themselves.

And that stopped exactly zip, zero, zilch, none, nodda, nodda one, 0, Conservatives from wanting to bomb those places back to the Stone Age.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 2, 2011 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

It would be nice if more respect were paid to No Drama Obama! Especially in light of all that previous shit that is on tape - wild as ape shit things said about President Obama regarding his foreign policy, fighting terrorism bona fides!

Well, forget the drama, and focus on smart executive decision-making - maybe the American electorate will come around and show a bit more immunity toward the propaganda of ne'erdowells and malcontents (read Republicans)! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on May 2, 2011 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

McCain also said he had a plan for getting Bin Laden. Now maybe he can share it with us.

Posted by: Danp on May 2, 2011 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

"I'm comfortable concluding now that Obama was right and his Republican critics were wrong."

Yet AGAIN!!

Posted by: Mark-NC on May 2, 2011 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

McCain also said he had a plan for getting Bin Laden. Now maybe he can share it with us.

i think it involved electing obama.

Posted by: benjoya on May 2, 2011 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

"Bush might have dared, but the scary brown terrorist bogeyman was far more useful to him alive."-Posted by: jTh

- and helped GW get re-elected; a big win for both men. Doppelgänger, anyone?

Posted by: DAY on May 2, 2011 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

McCain '08: "Larry, I'm not going to go there and here's why: because Pakistan is a sovereign nation."

America's biggest military jackass.

McCain 2011 - Invade Libya.

Posted by: max on May 2, 2011 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

I had the misfortune of running into a Fox & Friends (wait...they have friends?) broadcast this morning. Of course, with all of the politicians (even RepubliCON), military attaches and diplomats at their disposal, who do they turn to? Why, David Beamer, who happens to be one of the more strident anti-Obama family of 9/11 deceased.

I'm assuming it was the Carlson chick who asked, "didn't this president want to close Guantanamo, I believe it was his first executive order, what do you have to say about the FACT that there MAY (emphasis mine) have been intel gathered at Guantanamo that helped tra ck down OBL?"

First of all, there is so much wrong with this statement/question that I barely know where to begin. First of all, couldn't you wait like 12 hours before blaming Obama again? And was Gitmo the only place terrorists would be willing to give up this intel? You mean if we held them elsewhere, we wouldn't be abl;e to interrogate them? Lastly, I'm pretty sure OBL has moved around quite a bit over the past 10 years. By the time any captive reached Gitmo, chances were OBL would have moved on.

I do think it's important to highlight these exchanges to show just how out of touch and strident Fox Shnooze is.

Posted by: Stetson Kennedy on May 2, 2011 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

I was just over at a hobbie site that prohibits political posts. Today they made an exception. Some guy pushing a conspiracy theory. Something about without a body to view, I don't trust the administration. Even the conservatives at the site who normally don't like Obama were giving the conspiracy nut grief. Of course, as they should, mostly they were praising the SEALs who pulled it off.

It has to be tough to be Fox News today.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 2, 2011 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Clearly McCain and Romney were trying to lull Bin Laden into a false sense of security. BHO was unwise to show his hand so easily. That's why it took so long to get Bin Laden.

Posted by: Al on May 2, 2011 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Wonder how many times Double Talk has changed that 2008 position?

This does throw somewhat of a crimp into those annual campfire gatherings of Shrub, Cheney, RumDumb and Tommy Franks, crooning, into the night, "Tora Bora, Tora Bora, Tora Bora, Tora Bora..........". Yeah, this befuddled Four really went after bin Laden, did they not? As our CIA operative pleaded "Please send troops, NOW", they, all dreamed of all of that oil in Iraq.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 2, 2011 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK


If Obama doesn't get at least 10 points out of this, then people are more racist/Fox News drones than I thought. I mean, W got that much from Saddam's capture even though it was inevitable at that point.

Posted by: winner on May 2, 2011 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Ok, let's look at a couple of other 'facts'. The compound he was living in was built in 2005 while we were palling around with the former dictator. It was built close to the anti-terror hub while we were palling around with the former dictator. It did not have internet or phone services while in close proximity to military installations and did not raise an interest from 2005 when it was built close to the anti terror hub while we were palling around with the former dictator. In other words, what was our supposed ally doing while this secure compound was built so close to all the activity that was looking for this most wanted man? Was this also the location that was used to produce the tapes he released from 2005 until his final death? Very interesting. Way to go Mr. President.

Posted by: del on May 2, 2011 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently, a million dollar mansion with no telephone or internet connection was a major tip-off to the CIA.

Posted by: DAY on May 2, 2011 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

By next year this time I fully expect that a majority of Republican voters will either certain or willing to consider that the death of OBL was a hoax perpetrated by Obama to deflect criticism that he is weak and indecisive on the use of force as an instrument of U.S. international policy.

The mainstream candidates won't go there, but they will do little to dismiss such theories either. "Deathers" will have replaced "birthers" as the preferred conspiracy mongers of the right.

I'm sure Jerome Corsi will have a book out explaining it all before the election.

Posted by: Rip on May 2, 2011 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

Just got an e-mail from some tea bagging ex-military friends I was with in Vietnam. After praising the Navy and the civilian intel people the narrative contined: "Osama's taking credit for it but that's to be expected." The toxic anti-Obama hatred never ends and it definitely has a racial component. Jesus, even Dick Cheney congratulated Obama for getting bin Laden.

Posted by: max on May 2, 2011 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Stetson Kennedy: "By the time any captive reached Gitmo, chances were OBL would have moved on."

The intel from Gitmo was reportedly the code-name of bin Laden's courier, which pointed to the compound. Still, as you say, closing Gitmo would not have ended the interrogation of prisoners.

Before anyone gets too excited, remember Bush 41 enjoyed a huge poll spike after Desert Storm. Two years later, he was out of office.

Posted by: Grumpy on May 2, 2011 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Bin Laden killed, another coup while a Democrat is in the White House. I remember resolution of the the missile crisis of 1962, the neocons cannot claim a similar accomplishment. Maybe the Republicans think that arms for hostages was a good thing, or war with Grenada was enough to make one administration appear fearless. Republicans the Quixotic perpetrators.

Posted by: Ted76 on May 2, 2011 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

The intel from Gitmo was reportedly the code-name of bin Laden's courier, which pointed to the compound. Still, as you say, closing Gitmo would not have ended the interrogation of prisoners.

. . . And closing Gitmo and using modern interrogation techniques instead of torture would very likely have produced better intelligence. It usually does.

Posted by: Midland on May 2, 2011 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

McCain also said he had a plan for getting Bin Laden. Now maybe he can share it with us.

Posted by: Danp at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

It had something to do with Navy Seals and helicopters. He sent the plan to himself in the mail, not to be opened before the capture of OBL, and he will be opening the letter and revealing the McPlan very soon to verify his credacity. Or credulate his mendacity. Or something like that.

Posted by: burro on May 2, 2011 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

From a historical legacy perspective, this was a massive, massive, massive win for Obama.

From an electoral standpoint, the jury is far from out.

The drumbeat to pull out of Aghanistan will start to beat louder than ever. If Obama leverages this moment to pull troops out en masse, yes, it will pay dividends in 2012. But if Obama persists in fighting a costly and undefined war on the Taliban, then we will watch as his popularity plummets.

Posted by: square1 on May 2, 2011 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

The right is, incredibly, giving credit to Bushit. Bushit had an opportunity to crush the complete hierarchy of al Qaida in Tora Bora. Instead he let them escape and gave them a ten year head start to reorganize and wreak havoc all over the world.

This is Obama's win. Give it a rest White Righty Tighties....

Posted by: Stevio on May 2, 2011 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Even Mitt Romney tried a similar tack during a nationally televised GOP debate:

"[Obama] went from going to sit down to tea with our enemies, but then he's going to bomb our allies. I mean, he's gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in one week."

No matter the topic, everything seems to come down to having nothing to offer except glib, lame jokes when it comes to Mitt Romney.

Posted by: June on May 2, 2011 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Great catchHad forgotten the mccain debackle conveniently!
Our President is certainly thorough and deliberate...he has the ability to sort the facts and make firm decisions1

Would seem that the repubs have the downword spiral down pat!

Thank the intelligence community--over the years and The PRESIDENTS GUTS to make the decision!

Posted by: jlt on May 2, 2011 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

YES! I was thinking about the stupidity of that election issue just this morning. I seem to recall Clinton basically agreeing with McCain when it arose during the primaries, or am I mistaken on that?

Posted by: South Florida Lawyers on May 2, 2011 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

I couldn't believe it but 9/11 Rudy was just on Today Show by phone and several times reiterated how much credit should go to President Obama. Nice job Rudy.

Posted by: Just Guessing on May 2, 2011 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

My prediction:
"You know Obama always manages to blame Bush when things go wrong, but I didn't hear much praise for Bush in his speech, which looked a lot like the strut walk from the back bench player who happens to catch an 80-yard pass and carry it two steps into the end zone."

Posted by: maryQ on May 2, 2011 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

No one with half a brain needed the "benefit of hindsight" to tell who was right and who wrong on that one. It was one of the more egregious examples of the GOP's "I'm against whatever you are for" childishness.

Posted by: Jon on May 2, 2011 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Exactly Steve!

And just think of all the fun we'll have in the weeks and months to come, sifting through all those old Corner posts arguing that Obama was naive and dangerous to target pakistani targets and did you know McCain was a POW in vietnam?

Posted by: Danny on May 2, 2011 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

It's hillarious really how the wingers are acheing to credit Bush for the outcome of a intelligence and military operation that went down when he's been out of office for two and a half years.

I propose we denote that "affirmative action for white republican presidents" - whereby they get a little extra credit for accomplishments they had jack shit to do with, as reparation for all their suffering on account of being fuckups.

Were those guys even able to extend some credit to Carter for the freeing of the hostages on Reagans actual inauguration day at the time?

Posted by: Danny on May 2, 2011 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

So, though out-of-office Bush gets credit for the death of OBL, out-of-office Bush does not get credit for the tanked economy?

Posted by: Andrew on May 2, 2011 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

The evolution of GW Bush on Bin Laden:

"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him." 9/13/01

"I want justice...There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive,'" 9/17/01

"...Secondly, he is not escaping us. This is a guy, who, three months ago, was in control of a county [sic]. Now he's maybe in control of a cave. He's on the run. Listen, a while ago I said to the American people, our objective is more than bin Laden. But one of the things for certain is we're going to get him running and keep him running, and bring him to justice. And that's what's happening. He's on the run, if he's running at all. So we don't know whether he's in cave with the door shut, or a cave with the door open -- we just don't know...."Crawford TX, 12/28/01

"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."3/13/02

"I am truly not that concerned about him."3/13/02

"I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."3/13/02

"UhhGosh, I don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those, uhh, exaggerations." Tempe, AZ, 10/13/2004

Posted by: Scott Supak on May 2, 2011 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

We've known for two years that Obama's right and the GOP is wrong.

And Dubya let bin Laden escape at Tora Bora because he's friends with the family and the Saudi's.

Remember when the CIA disbanded their task force for the capture of bin Laden? That was during Shrub's administration...not Obama's.

Posted by: May O'Naise on May 2, 2011 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently, a million dollar mansion with no telephone or internet connection was a major tip-off to the CIA.

Yes, and the reason they were finally able to connect the dots, was because Obama undid the confusion and interagency turmoil bush purposefully created for political cover to allow them to work together again.

Posted by: Michael on May 2, 2011 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Steve. God knows that nobody else will.

Posted by: JD on May 2, 2011 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK
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