Speak Softly and Carry a Big Clip

Obama on Speaking Softly and Pakistan

As we commemorate the one year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, let us remember President Barack Obama made a hard decision many others would not have made.

There was a fifty-fifty chance Osama bin Laden was in the Pakistani compound Seal Team Six raided a year ago. During his deliberations on the raid President Obama received mixed messages from his National Security team with Vice President Biden advising against the raid. Mr. Biden recently stated:

The president “went around the table with all the senior people, including the chiefs of staff,” Biden explained. “And he said, ‘I have to make this decision. What is your opinion?’ He started with the national security adviser and the secretary of state, and he ended with me. Every single person in that room hedged their bet except [Secretary of Defense] Leon Panetta. Leon said go. Everyone else said 49, 51, this got to be, ‘Joe, what do you think?’


“And I said, ‘You know, I didn’t know we had so many economists around the table.’ I said, ‘We owe the man a direct answer. Mr. President, my suggestion is don’t go. We have to do two more things to see if he’s there.’”


Vice President Biden was not the only person that thought we should probably hedge our bets in going after bin Laden. In July 2008, Larry King asked Senator McCain:

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


This week, the Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney said: “Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order,” referring to the bin Laden raid. Romney says anybody would have made the call to kill bin Laden, but before his latest flip-flop let’s look at Romney’s prior statements:

  • When asked about bin Laden, Romney said, “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth, spending billions of dollars just to capture one person.” He said the country would see “a very insignificant increase in safety” because another terrorist would rise to power. Sen. John McCain, who endorsed Romney this year, responded to that comment: “[I]t takes a degree of naiveté to think [bin Laden’s] not an element in the struggle against radical Islam.”
  • Romney opposed taking action against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, dismissing then-Senator Barack Obama’s promise to strike terrorist targets inside Pakistan if necessary. “I do not concur,” he said, adding “I don’t think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort.”
  • Romney added that the President’s pledge to strike at al-Qaeda was “ill-considered,” arguing that U.S. troops “shouldn’t be sent all over the world.” Romney said he preferred “a civilized world” where the U.S. will “participate with other nations in this civilized effort to help those nations reject the extreme with them.”

So, Senator McCain now says it was an easy decision to order the bin Laden raid despite the fact he was not so certain in 2008, and Mitt Romney opposed the bin Laden raid before he was for it, does not sound like a real profile in courage. This is how then-Senator Obama responded to going after bin Laden:

“If we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush al-Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.”


At a recent campaign speech Biden stated: “I promise you, the President has a big stick. I promise you,” or in this case a big clip.


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