How much credit does Obama get for bin Laden’s reported death?
The president’s statement was notably spare on details, but he clearly thinks he should get a lot of credit. He noted that bin Laden had “avoided capture” for many years and emphasized that “shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al-Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.”
Then follow a lot of other “I” sentences. “I was briefed….I met repeatedly…I determined…today, at my direction, the United States launched…” Former President George W. Bush is not mentioned until Obama noted that he had made clear this was not a war against Islam.
However, in a later background briefing for reporters, officials said that four years ago the identity was determined of the courier who ultimately led to bin Laden. That would place a key moment in the search back in the Bush administration. Officials also said that “about two years ago” U.S. intelligence discovered the areas in Pakistan where he operated. That sounds as if it happened during Obama’s presidency but the timing is vague enough that it could have overlapped with Bush’s. Other key events, such as the discovery of bin Laden’s compound and the decision to attack it, took place during Obama’s presidency.