The mainstream media largely seem content to parrot the Obama White House line that the president is entitled to take “credit” for the Osama bin Laden raid. Reporters have already declared his claims to be “fair game,” so nothing to see here and just keep on moving.
But “he is entitled take credit” is another of President Obama’s strawmen, one which the press feels no obligation to knock down.
Let’s put aside the egregious accusation that only The One would have received the plans to hit bin Laden and signed off on the operation (thereby placing the responsibility in the hands of Adm. William McRaven). The notion that no mere mortal pol would have had the blinding insight to do the same tells us more about Obama’s egomania than his opponent.
But just on the part about Obama’s credit-hogging there are a few problems. They go to accuracy and to tact.
As a factual matter, Jose Rodriguez, the CIA operative who oversaw the enhanced interrogations, writes in The Post today:
The truth is that getting bin Laden was the top counterterrorism objective for U.S. intelligence since well before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. This administration built on work painstakingly pursued for many years before Obama was elected — and without this work, Obama administration officials never would have been in a position to authorize the strike on Abbottabad, Pakistan, that resulted in bin Laden’s overdue death.
In 2004, an al-Qaeda terrorist was captured trying to communicate with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the terror organization’s operations in Iraq. That captured terrorist was taken to a secret CIA prison — or “black site” — where, initially, he was uncooperative. After being subjected to some “enhanced interrogation techniques” — techniques authorized by officials at the most senior levels of the U.S. government and that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel confirmed were consistent with U.S. law — the detainee became compliant. He was not one of the three al-Qaeda operatives who underwent waterboarding, the harshest of the hard measures. . . .
With some trying to turn bin Laden’s death into a campaign talking point for Obama’s reelection, it is useful to remember that the trail to bin Laden started in a CIA black site — all of which Obama ordered closed, forever, on the second full day of his administration — and stemmed from information obtained from hardened terrorists who agreed to tell us some (but not all) of what they knew after undergoing harsh but legal interrogation methods. Obama banned those methods on Jan. 22, 2009.
In short “the decision” was actually only the last link in the decision-making chain, including the decision to use EITs and black sites, that led to bin Laden’s death. Obama distorts how the intelligence community works, by portraying this as just him and the SEALs. In sum, Obama grabs too much credit, exaggerating his own role and concealing the work of others whose efforts he opposed at the time .
But there is something beyond the facts. As Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who is eminently qualified to speak on the topic, said: “I’ve had the great honor of serving in the company of heroes. And, you know the thing about heroes, they don’t brag.” In short, whether Obama deserves some credit or a lot of credit, he shouldn’t be the one throwing the confetti. It diminishes him, making him look more like the 20-something striver who wrote his own memoirs than the president of the United States. He doesn’t have the decency or self-awareness to fake modesty.
Why does this matter? Obama is counting on dragging Romney and the country through the mud, turning non-issues into scandals and throwing baseless accusations in the effort to deflect for as long as possible scrutiny of his own record. But at the point at which the public says ”This guy’s sleazy” or “This guy is desperate,” then the jig is up. It’s only May, but he’s getting perilously close to that point.