In the wake of President Obama's decision to approve the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, right-wing media are claiming that the call was in direct contradiction to Obama's foreign policy positions. In fact, as a presidential candidate, Obama promised he would take action against terrorists in Pakistan if “President Musharraf won't.”
Right-Wing Media Claim Candidate Obama Would Not Have Approved Bin Laden Mission
Hannity: Obama Did “Almost The Opposite Of What Candidate Obama Said He Would Do.” On his Fox News show, discussing the bin Laden operation and Obama's decision to give the go-ahead to carry it out, Sean Hannity stated: "[T]his is where I find myself a little conflicted here, because this is almost the opposite of what candidate Obama said he would do." However, his guest, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, immediately pointed to Obama's comments as a candidate “about going into Pakistan.” From the May 2 edition of the show:
GIULIANI: And the reality is, he also, at that very last minute when he made the decision, had to know that intelligence is --
HANNITY: Had to know.
GIULIANI: -- 50-50. I mean --
HANNITY: At best.
GIULIANI: -- you never know --
HANNITY: You never know.
GIULIANI: They were going in there to get Osama bin Laden, but who knows if it wasn't somebody that just looked like him or was like him. The better your intelligence, the more accurate your decision making, and the safer we are. And the reality is -- I was glad to hear the secretary of State say this -- Hillary Clinton say this: This is not the end. We're in the middle of this. And we can't let down our guard. We shouldn't -- we can't -- we shouldn't be leaving Afghanistan as a result of this. We shouldn't be leaving Iraq. We should remain there to get the job done.
HANNITY: I agree, but this is where I find myself a little conflicted here, because this is almost the opposite of what candidate Obama said he would do. And maybe it's -- maybe for the first time, he's grown in office. Maybe --
GIULIANI: Also, he did say one thing as a candidate that I remember, 'cause I was running --
HANNITY: About going into Pakistan.
GIULIANI: -- about going into Pakistan, Afghanistan, putting emphasis on that. So he did carry that out. And look, a lot of the techniques that the Bush administration used, they're continuing to use. [Fox News, Hannity, 5/2/11]
Kudlow Guest: “This Administration Is Coming To The View That Occasionally You Do Have To Act Unilaterally.” On CNBC's Kudlow Report, former Bush Homeland Security official Chad Sweet stated of Obama's decision: “What we would see here is -- I admire President Obama for taking unilateral action to take out Osama bin Laden. What we're seeing is this administration is coming to the view that occasionally you do have to act unilaterally to protect your interests. And I think the action they took with the respect to Pakistan demonstrates that.” [CNBC, The Kudlow Report, 5/2/11]
CNN's Erickson: “It Is Hard To Imagine” Obama Would Have Approved Mission “Two Years Ago.” In a post on RedState.com arguing that Obama “has grown in office,” CNN contributor Erick Erickson wrote: “Say what you will about President Obama, but it is hard to imagine two years ago he would have taken unilateral military action in Pakistan without telling the Pakistani government. He has grown in office.” Erickson concluded: “My, my how governing is so different from campaigning.” [RedState.com, 5/2/11]
Michael Barone: “To Get Bin Laden, Obama Relied On Policies He Decried.” In a Washington Examiner column titled, “To get bin Laden, Obama relied on policies he decried,” senior political analyst Michael Barone wrote, “Let's cheerfully and ungrudgingly give credit to Barack Obama for approving the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden,” but added: "[I]t's fascinating to see how many of the things that made the success of this operation possible were not so long ago decried by many of the president's fans and fellow partisans." One of the policies Barone listed included Obama's decision to approve a “unilateral operation”:
Finally, let us note that this was a unilateral operation. Obama didn't go to the United Nations Security Council. He didn't, so far as we know, consult NATO allies. He took care not to inform the government of Pakistan, some elements of which obviously knew that bin Laden was ensconced in a house 800 meters away from Pakistan's military academy.
For years we heard supposedly enlightened people excoriate our leaders for torture, lawlessness, unilateralism -- the list goes on and on. Now the president they have wanted has used the tactics and methods they excoriated to get bin Laden. Good for him. [The Washington Examiner, 5/3/11]
Free Republic Post: Decision “Wasn't The Multilateral Cooperation That Obama Turned Into His Trademark When Running For Office.” Free Republic posted a piece by blogger Daniel Greenfield arguing that Obama, "[t]he man who came into office promising multilateral engagement," made the decision for the military to go into Pakistan because “his ideals were too unpopular.” Greenfield continued:
The man who wouldn't sacrifice his politics for the sake of American lives, sacrificed them for his own popularity. It's not just that Obama suffers from the wrong ideas, but that he values his ideas more than America, but less than himself.
It wasn't smart power that took down Bin Laden. It wasn't the multilateral cooperation that Obama turned into his trademark when running for office. Instead it was an old fashioned unilateral operation that didn't even notify the Pakistanis ahead of time and even jammed their radar. An operation that assumed we couldn't trust our Muslim allies because they sympathize more with Al-Qaeda than they do with us. A unilateral assault that Pakistan would never have approved and that could even be considered an act of war. [Free Republic, 5/4/11]
In Fact, During Campaign, Obama Repeatedly 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:
OBAMA: 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, 8/1/07, via Council on Foreign Relations]
Obama: “If We Have Actionable Intelligence About High-Level Al Qaeda Targets In Pakistan's Border Region, We Must Act If Pakistan Will Not Or Cannot.” In a March 2008 speech in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Obama reiterated his stance, saying:
OBAMA: To succeed in Afghanistan, we also need to fundamentally rethink our Pakistan policy. For years, we have supported stability over democracy in Pakistan, and gotten neither. The core leadership of al Qaeda has a safe-haven in Pakistan. The Taliban are able to strike inside Afghanistan and then return to the mountains of the Pakistani border. Throughout Pakistan, domestic unrest has been rising. The full democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people have been too long denied. A child growing up in Pakistan, more often than not, is taught to see America as a source of hate -- not hope.
This is why I stood up last summer and said we cannot base our entire Pakistan policy on President Musharraf. Pakistan is our ally, but we do our own security and our ally no favors by supporting its President while we are seen to be ignoring the interests of the people. Our counter-terrorism assistance must be conditioned on Pakistani action to root out the al Qaeda sanctuary. And any U.S. aid not directly needed for the fight against al Qaeda or to invest in the Pakistani people should be conditioned on the full restoration of Pakistan's democracy and rule of law.
The choice is not between Musharraf and Islamic extremists. As the recent legislative elections showed, there is a moderate majority of Pakistanis, and they are the people we need on our side to win the war against al Qaeda. That is why we should dramatically increase our support for the Pakistani people -- for education, economic development, and democratic institutions. That child in Pakistan must know that we want a better life for him, that America is on his side, and that his interest in opportunity is our interest as well. That's the promise that America must stand for.
And for his sake and ours, we cannot tolerate a sanctuary for terrorists who threaten America's homeland and Pakistan's stability. If we have actionable intelligence about high-level al Qaeda targets in Pakistan's border region, we must act if Pakistan will not or cannot. Senator Clinton, Senator McCain, and President Bush have all distorted and derided this position, suggesting that I would invade or bomb Pakistan. This is politics, pure and simple. My position, in fact, is the same pragmatic policy that all three of them have belatedly -- if tacitly -- acknowledged is one we should pursue. [Barack Obama, 3/19/08, via My.BarackObama.com]
NY Times Noted Correlation Between Obama's Campaign Statements And His Presidential Actions
NY Times: Obama's Comment During Campaign Was “Eerily Prescient.” From a May 2 post on the New York 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, 5/2/11]