Saturday, May 12, 2012

If Only Obama Had Richard Nixon's Class

In the end, Barack Obama lacked the class of Richard Nixon.

While Obama has sought to monopolize all the credit for killing Osama bin Laden, we have since learned that, in advance of the operation, he had Defense Secretary Leon Panetta prepare a memo that would have deflected all the blame for a failure upon the SEALS.

This letter inevitably invites comparison to General Dwight Eisenhower. On D-Day, June 6, 1945, as his troops stormed the Normandy shores, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe had in his pocket a letter accepting full responsibility should the landings end in disaster. The letter was addressed to President Franklin Roosevelt.

Thankfully, the letter never had to be delivered.

But the disparity between the two letters shows just how far our nation’s moral leadership has fallen.

Since Obama’s recent self-congratulation tours, we have also learned that Obama dawdled indecisively for nearly a year before finally mustering up the courage to risk other people’s lives on the mission. Obama had known Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts since the previous summer.

On several occasions over the past six years, Barack Obama has delivered speeches in which he condemned what he perceived as exploitation of the war on terror for partisan political advantage. But as with so many issues (his rejection of federal matching campaign funds in 2008 comes immediately to mind), that principle expired as soon he saw that it was to his advantage to reverse course.

And so no one should have been surprised when the Obama campaign prepared a campaign advertisement that featured Bill Clinton intimating that, as president, Republican Mitt Romney would have lacked the courage to order such an attack. Romney correctly responded that the accusation was absurd and that even Jimmy Carter would have ordered the raid.

The irony-proof Obama campaign seems to have forgotten that the spokesman whom they chose to deliver that absurd, unsubstantiated insult was the one man with an actual record of lacking the courage to take out Bin Laden. Bill Clinton had at least three opportunities to get Bin Laden and muffed all three.

On one occasion, according to the Sudanese Defense Minister, Major General Elfatih Erwa, the Sudanese government offered to hand Bin Laden over to the CIA, and his offer was rejected by Bill Clinton because the Justice Department did not have criminal charges drawn up against Bin Laden.

This is war! You don’t need to prepare an indictment before killing or capturing the enemy.

Another fumbled opportunity came when the CIA had firmly established Bin Laden’s presence in an Afghanistan terrorist camp. In the fall of 2000, the CIA had collected photographs of Bin Laden in the Tarnak Farm training camp.

And this time Osama bin Laden was indeed wanted for the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa and the 1993 bomb attack on the World Trade Center.

Former intelligence analyst described the information as “dynamite,” but the risk-averse Clinton elected not to pursue Bin Laden.

Perhaps his hesitancy resulted from his bungled attempt to kill Bin Laden with cruise missiles two years earlier. That effort ended in failure because Clinton dawdled so long over the evidence that, by the time the missiles were launched, Bin Laden had moved on. In the end, Clinton’s timing of the attack was dictated less by CIA intelligence than it was by a need to distract the news media from his Monica Lewinsky embarrassments.

Another irony is that, although Obama was eager to impugn Romney’s commitment to killing bin Laden, the trail that led to Bin Laden was developed during the Bush Administration using interrogation techniques that Obama declared that he would never have employed. He actually threatened criminal prosecution against the men and women who did develop the intelligence.

So we have it from his own mouth that he would have lacked the courage to pursue these terrorists using unconventional means and would have preferred subpoenas, search warrants and indictments.

Maybe he thought that Osama bin Laden would laugh himself to death.

In the summer of 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon and Democrats were apoplectic because the sitting president was Richard Nixon.

The race to the moon was a John F. Kennedy initiative and was continued by Lyndon Johnson.

But here was Nixon, ideally positioned to claim the glory. He didn’t.

Barack Obama could learn a lot from Richard Nixon.

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