Op-Ed: White House Aides Regale Press With Sit Room Heroics


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The following Op-Ed is from Andrew Malcolm, and appears in the LA Times:

According to another one of those White House briefings of reporters designed to suck up all available credit for good news, President Obama’s homeland security advisor reveals that it was a really tense time in the air-conditioned White House as unidentified U.S. Navy SEALs closed in on the world’s most wanted man after midnight a half a world away.

“Minutes passed like days,” says John Brennan, who bravely stood with press secretary Jay Carney before reporters and TV cameras today chronicling his boss’ weekend heroics.

The heavily-armed commandos flying in a quartet of darkened Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters more than 100 miles into Pakistan were probably listening to their iPods and discussing the NFL draft.

“The concern was that bin Laden would oppose any type of capture operation,” said Obama’s Sherlock Holmes. So U.S. troops were prepared “for all contingencies.”

In fact, this weekend was such a tense time in the White House that Obama only got in nine holes of golf. But he still managed to deliver his joke script to the White House Correspondents Assn. dinner Saturday evening.

Sunday was, Brennan revealed to his eager audience, “probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of times in the lives of the people assembled here.” Poor poor bureaucrats. Extra Tums all around. Did someone order dinner?

There may have been a little anxiety aboard those combat choppers. Who knows? We can’t hear from them. And, as every day, anxiety in the kitchens, hearts and mind of thousands of military families who put up with the terrifying uncertainty of the dangerous deeds their loved ones have volunteered to secretly do for their country.B During his 49 minute presentation Brennan did squeeze in one reference to the mission’s “very brave personnel.”

But the emphasis, with 2012 just around the calendrical corner, was on the boss’ valor. “There was nothing that confirmed that bin Laden was at that compound,” Brennan related as if such uncertainty is uncommon in war.

“And, therefore,” Brennan continued, “when President Obama was faced with the opportunity to act upon this, the president had to evaluate the strength of that information and then made what I believe was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.”

According to early reports of the incident, detailed here in The Ticket, 24 SEALs rappelled down ropes from hovering Chinooks in post-midnight darkness Monday Pakistan time with Osama security forces shooting at them. Brennan didn’t have much time to go into all that today, the goal is to elevate the ex-state senator to at least a one-star commander-in-chief.

Here’s something else that didn’t get much recognition in all the street celebrations or all-hail-Obama briefings:

The trail to Monday morning’s assault on Osama’s Pakistan compound began during someone else’s presidency. That previous president authorized enhanced interrogation techniques which convinced folks like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to give up, among many other things, the name of their top-secret courier, now deceased. His travels ultimately led the CIA back to Osama’s six-year-old suburban home.

(Source: LA Times)


  1. This commentary is so wrong in so many ways that it makes “Dave Hirsch” read like a political analyst.

    For starters, the commentator missed the one genuine error in the Brennan press conference: the use of the double superlative, “most gutsiest”, as quoted in the fourth-to-last paragraph.

    In paragraphs 2 – 4, the writer unsuccessfully attempts to compare the tension in the White House with the bravery of the troops carrying out the mission. Of course there is a difference in the risks that the military and civilian planners, commanders (including the commander-in-chief) and intelligence personnel not in combat are taking compared to the troops in the line of fire, but that overlooks the tension of responsible commanders who genuinely care about the lives of the troops they have put at risk for the mission for which the commanders are responsible. It would appear that this White House takes its responsibilities very seriously.

    So seriously, in fact, that the President, as his predecessors of both parties did, attended a previously scheduled perennial joke-fest and, notwithstanding the pressing matters of state that were surely on his mind, joked like nothing important was happening, thereby keeping secret the extraordinary mission that was pending. To cancel his attendance at the joke-fest may have tipped off foreign intelligence, or the rocket scientists at the LA Times, that something serious was afoot.

    As for the author’s speculation that torture produced the intelligence that enabled this mission: (a) that has not been estblished yet, as far as I know; (b) torture remains illegal, even when it works, and degrading to the government that does it, as much when it works as when it doesn’t, which is usually the case; and (c) if the previous administration had the information 4 years ago, why oould nothing be accomplished with the information until a change of administrations? Of course there are plausible explanations for why the previous administration could not do in 8 years what the current administration did in 2, but those reasons will have to await a factual evaluation by honest journalists and scholars, not the spur-of-the-moment spins of a hack who calls the planners and commanders of this remarkable mission “beaucratic bastards.”

  2. And one more thing to really think about that very few have mentioned on these “pages”: Why have both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton made sure to paint Osama bin Laden as not only not a Muslim leader, bus as one of their greatest enemies, Muslims making up the majority of their victims?

  3. No. 3: I think the Obama administration’s portrayal of Bin Laden as an enemy of Islam is a wise and factually sound strategy that is intended to enable moderate Muslims (there are such persons, believe it or not) to align themselves with the US and democracy.

  4. Meanwhile, the Muslim street and those who represent it are mourning the death of Bin Laden and condemning the hit.

    Obama will enjoy a few weeks of better approval ratings, but when the dust settles down, and people realize that bin Laden was a toothless wild boar at the time of his death, we will see more and more of a backlash against Obama as he continues to stumble and fall on both domestic and foreign policy. In addition, it is already known that Obama just had a bit of beginner’s luck and that Bush was the one who did the real work by ensuring that the scum captured in Afghanistan would spill the beans.