One week ago today, the nation was still reeling from — and reveling in — the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a daring covert operation in Pakistan the night before. And almost immediately what should have been a moment of national unity devolved into a silly and hyper-partisan “who deserves credit” game. There’s enough of it to go around, folks.
Of course, President Obama deserves the lion’s share of the credit. He signed off on a mission that was as spectacular as it was uncertain. “[A]t the end of the day, this was still a 55/45 situation,” Obama said on 60 Minutes last night. “I mean, we could not say definitively that bin Laden was there.” But even the president said, “[T]his is something, first of all, that wasn’t just our doing.
“Obviously since 2001, countless folks in our intelligence community and our military had worked on this issue,” Obama said. “President Bush had obviously devoted a lot of resources to this, and so there was a cumulative effort and a testament to the capacity of the United States of America to follow through. And to do what we said we’re gonna do. Even across administrations, across party lines — and the skill with which our intelligence and military folks operated in this was indescribable.”
Something else that made the bin Laden mission successful was the remarkable ability of official Washington to keep its mouth shut. At the Atlantic Council dinner last Tuesday, Vice President Biden said, “There was such an absolute overwhelming desire to accomplish this mission that although for over several months we were in the process of planning it and there were as many as 16 members of Congress who were briefed on it — not a single solitary thing leaked.” Obama made the same point to Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes.” “You know one of the great successes of this operation was that we were able to keep this thing secret,” he said. “And it’s a testimony to how seriously everybody took this operation and the understanding that any leak could end up not only compromising the mission, but killing some of the guys that we were sending in there.”
So, Obama deserves credit. Bush deserves credit. Members of Congress deserve credit. More importantly, the untold and unknown men and women spread across numerous agencies and two administrations who worked day and night to make the May 1 announcement possible deserve credit. “[I]t was a moment of great pride for me to see our capacity as a nation to execute something this difficult this well,” Obama said.
It should be a moment of great pride for ALL of us.