President Obama’s campaign of self-congratulation over the killing of bin Laden isn’t sitting well with some present and former members of the Navy SEALs — the outfit that actually took out al Qaeda’s leader. Ryan Zinke, a former Commander in the US Navy who spent 23 years as a SEAL had this to say:
The decision was a no brainer. I applaud him for making it but I would not overly pat myself on the back for making the right call. I think every president would have done the same. He is justified in saying it was his decision but the preparation, the sacrifice – it was a broader team effort. The President and his administration are positioning him as a war president using the SEALs as ammunition. It was predictable.
From this president, the least gracious, most lacking in class that I can recall, it certainly was predictable.
A current SEAL echoed Zinke’s view:
Obama wasn’t in the field, at risk, carrying a gun. As president, at every turn he should be thanking the guys who put their lives on the line to do this. He does so in his official speeches because he speechwriters are smart. But the more he tries to take the credit for it, the more the ground operators are saying, “Come on, man!” It really didn’t matter who was president. At the end of the day, they were going to go.
That is almost certainly true. As Mitt Romney said today, even Jimmy Carter would have okayed this mission.
Chris Kyle, a former SEAL sniper with 160 confirmed and another 95 unconfirmed kills to his credit, was even less impressed with Obama:
He’s trying to say that Romney wouldn’t have made the same call? Anyone who is patriotic to this country would have made that exact call, Democrat or Republican. Obama is taking more credit than he is due. . . .
The operation itself was great and the nation felt immense pride. It was great that we did it. But bin Laden was just a figurehead. The war on terror continues. Taking him out didn’t really change anything as far as the war on terror is concerned and using it as a political attack is a cheap shot. In years to come there is going to be information that will come out that Obama was not the man who made the call. He can say he did and the people who really know what happened are inside the Pentagon, are in the military and the military isn’t allowed to speak out against the commander- in-chief so his secret is safe.
I don’t know about that; it seems to me that Obama had to have made the call at some point. But when you take too much credit, you open the door to blowback that gives you too little.
Perhaps the most sensibly pragmatic take comes from Clint Bruce, who gave up the chance of an NFL career to serve as a SEAL officer before retiring as a lieutenant after nine years:
We were extremely surprised and discouraged by the publicity because it compromises the ability of those guys to operate. It’s a waste of time to speculate about who would and wouldn’t have made that decision. It was a symphony of opportunity and intelligence that allowed this administration to give the green light. We want to acknowledge that they made that decision.
Politicians should let the public know where they stand on national security but not in the play-by-play, detailed way that has been done recently. The intricacies of national security should not become part of stump speeches.
Obama, though, needs something for his stump speeches. And it can’t all be about how evil the Republicans are. The president needs to take credit for something. Other than the killing of bin Laden, nothing much springs to mind.