“This Is Crazy”: The Right's Mocking Attacks On Obama's 2007 Pakistan Policy

In the wake of Osama Bin Laden's death, the media are revisiting President Obama's 2007 speech promising to take action against terrorists in Pakistan. At the time, the conservative media attacked Obama's policy as “crazy” and “frightening.”

In 2007 Speech, Obama Promised To Pursue Terrorists In Pakistan

Obama: “If We Have Actionable Intelligence About High-Value Terrorist Targets And President Musharraf Won't Act, We Will.” On August 1, 2007, then-presidential candidate Obama delivered a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center outlining his foreign policy positions:

As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will. [Barack Obama, 8/1/2007]

NY Times: Operation Has “Echoes Of 2007 Obama Speech”

NY Times: Obama's Comment Was “Eerily Prescient.” From a May 2 post at the NY Times' Caucus blog:

In a speech almost 18 months before he assumed the presidency, Barack Obama issued a blunt warning to President Pervez Musharaff of Pakistan: “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.”

The line was eerily prescient, as it turned out. In his late-night statement on Sunday announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, Mr. Obama said that the United States had acted inside Pakistan to capture or kill the Al Qaeda leader on just that kind of actionable intelligence.

“Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan,” Mr. Obama said. “A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.” [NYTimes.com, 5/2/2011]

Right-Wing Media Attacked, Mocked Obama's 2007 Pakistan Remarks

Rush Limbaugh: Obama And Bin Laden “On The Same Page.” From the September 20, 2007, edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Well, we've got another tape from -- I get these guys confused -- Usama bin Laden. Another tape says he's going to invade Pakistan and declare war on Pakistan and Musharraf, which, ladies and gentlemen, puts him on the same page with a Democrat presidential candidate -- that would be Barack “Uss-Obama.” And let's go back to August 1st: “U-Bama” gave a speech on counterterrorism, and here's a portion of what he said.

OBAMA [audio clip]: If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will.

LIMBAUGH: All right, so, we're going to attack Pakistan. Poor Musharraf's going to get it on both ends if Barack's elected. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/20/2007]

Sean Hannity: Obama Could “Potentially Create A Theocracy With Nuclear Weapons.” Fox News' Sean Hannity repeatedly attacked Obama's Pakistan remarks:

  • Hannity claimed Obama said “he would bomb an ally, General Musharraf in Pakistan,” and suggested that Obama remarks “say that Barack Obama is not qualified to be president of the United States.” [Fox News, Hannity & Colmes, 8/14/2007]
  • Hannity claimed Obama said he would “maybe invade an ally like Pakistan and potentially create a theocracy with nuclear weapons,” and described Obama's position as “frightening.” Hannity's assessment was met with agreement by former Bush aide Karl Rove, who said: "[T]his goes back to the inexperience that he has. Remember, he -- you're right about Pakistan. We've talked briefly about what he said with regard to the rogue state." [Fox News, Hannity & Colmes, 5/12/2008]
  • Hannity claimed that “if there's anybody confused in this race, it's the former community organizer who can't decide on dividing Jerusalem, invading Pakistan, or meeting with Ahmadinejad without preconditions.” [Fox News, Hannity & Colmes, 7/16/2008]

William Kristol: Obama “Frantically Suggest[ed] That He Would Invade Pakistan.” Weekly Standard editor William Kristol claimed Obama's Pakistan position was part of a “retreat” by the “American antiwar movement”:

For the Iraq war's opponents, July began as a month of hope. It ended in retreat. It began with Democratic unity in proclaiming the inevitability of American defeat. It ended with respected military analysts--Democrats, no less!--reporting that the situation on the ground had improved, and that the war might be winnable. It began with a plan for a series of votes in Congress that were supposed to stampede nervous Republicans against the continued prosecution of the war. It ended with the GOP spine stiffened, no antiwar legislation passed, and the Democratic Congress adjourning in disarray, with approval ratings lower than President Bush's. It began with Democratic presidential candidates competing in their antiwar pandering. It ended with them having second thoughts--with Barack Obama, losing ground to Hillary Clinton because he seemed naive about real world threats, frantically suggesting that he would invade Pakistan. [The Weekly Standard, 8/13/2007]

New York Post Editorial: Obama “Once Insisted That US Forces Invade Pakistan In Search Of Osama Bin Laden.” In their editorial endorsing John McCain for president, the New York Post wrote:

Obama backed policies that would have abandoned Iraq to its fate, he bitterly opposed the surge, and once insisted that US forces invade Pakistan in search of Osama bin Laden - seemingly without regard for the potential consequences of attacking a nuclear-armed nation, ally or not. [New York Post, 9/8/2008]

Charles Hurt: A “Diplo-Disaster.” New York Post columnist Charles Hurt wrote that Obama's comment was one among a series of Democratic “self-inflicted wounds”:

Among those he promised face time is Iranian despot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier with nuclear ambitions who makes no secret of his desire to annihilate Israel.

Then, in a prepared speech, Obama publicly threatened to invade Pakistan, a key - and already teetering - ally in the war on terror. He followed that diplo-disaster with a blanket statement - again, in public - that he would not even consider using the single greatest weapon in America's arsenal to combat the terrorists.

We'd still be fighting the Japanese if Harry Truman - a Democrat unafraid to fight - subscribed to this fuzzy fringe foreign policy. [New York Post, 8/3/2007]

Ralph Peters: “This Is Crazy.” Appearing on Fox News, military analyst Ralph Peters described Obama's Pakistan comments as “loonier than anything he's said about Iraq” and called them “crazy”:

PETERS: But right now, he can't play the Iraq card, so he's trying very hard to play the Afghanistan card. And frankly, what he's saying about Afghanistan and Pakistan is loonier than anything he's said about Iraq. For instance, the idea that we should send ground troops into Pakistan -- look, our troops only get their supplies, their water, their food, their gasoline, their bullets, their spare parts through Pakistan. So, we're going to invade the country through which we get our supplies -- that means the routes closed. We can't resupply them --


PETERS: -- by air, and you're forcing the Pakistani military to fight us. This is crazy. [Fox News, America's Election Headquarters, 7/15/2008]

John Gibson: “He's A Loser.” Then-Fox News host John Gibson included Obama in his list of “losers” for the week in which Obama gave his speech:

GIBSON: Well we go now to this week's losers. And on the list, right there on top is O.J. Simpson, because he does not even have the right to sell his own confession.

KURT LONG: No, and that book Goldman, that's a win for him, just seeing O.J. suffer. But unless he gets J.K. Rowlings to add a couple of chapters, then call it Harry Potter and the two people who were murdered, then maybe he'll get --

GIBSON: Barack Obama suggested we invade Pakistan, this week, he's a loser.

LONG: Yes, he is, not quite yet, but I think he'll definitely be a loser in November, in about a year. Yeah I think that's going to be a definite loser. [Fox News, The Big Story, 8/3/2007, via Nexis]