Bret Stephens writing in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday labeled me and people like me who write "right-wing commentary" as "unbecoming" inhalers of "a whiff of sour grapes" during "Obama's Finest Hour" -- the hour that the President gave the green light to kill Osama bin Laden. I am labeled as such because I recognize that notwithstanding the wave of vengeful jubilation that has overtaken America, the media, and the civilized world as they celebrate OBL's death, I remain a critical analyst of the entire Obama presidency and not just someone who is elated over the one and only foreign policy accomplishment of this administration to date (for which George W. Bush is also responsible).
What I find shocking about this major event in US history is the dearth of information emanating from the administration. There is an appearance that no one is running the show and no one really knows what transpired. This has led to utter chaos as the media and individuals randomly attempt to piece together events on their own.
We know that the US military, acting on intelligence, went into Osama bin Laden's compound in the middle of Pakistan in the cloak of darkness and killed the most wanted man in the world -- and it took ten years to accomplish this feat. Presumably, the soldiers carrying out this mission were wearing video cameras and upon its successful completion, collected forensic evidence to prove and support their claims of success (before dumping OBL's body in the ocean for the purpose of showing the Muslim world how politically correct we Americans can be).
What I expected on Sunday evening as I waited for Obama to finally appear on television was a more detailed explanation of what transpired, beginning with a brief summary of the intelligence leading up to the operation and ending with photos of the compound and bin Laden himself. Rather than a presidential appearance with the pomp and circumstance of red carpets and the like, I expected the President to appear in the White House briefing room to make a statement and then leave the details and follow-up questions to the likes of his Press Secretary as well as military personnel who had been briefed on the details of the operation. Not surprisingly, I was disappointed.
It is now Wednesday and conspiracy theories abound due to the scarcity of information provided by the White House. I do not doubt that the American military killed OBL. I am, however, disgusted that the White House is offering contradictory stories. And I am disgusted by the silence that we hear from the media while questioning what in the world is going on. When presented with pictures of US soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the New York Times and other mainstream publications could not wait to print the pictures (and partake in the demonization of the American military) without regard to the risk posed to soldiers in the field. In this case however, the White House is holding back on releasing the photographs of bin Laden claiming that the release could be inflammatory.
And the cynic in me wonders whether Obama is milking this event for all it is worth. I have no doubt that had this occurred under a different administration (and perhaps the predecessor administration that put into place all of the policies and procedures that not only led to this achievement but that also have bolstered Obama's claims of accomplishment), the country would have been treated to a proper briefing by a military expert involved with the initial planning and decision making and who was privy to the details of the mission itself. Alas, we are subject to a President who simply makes decisions based on political gamesmanship and his self-aggrandizing ego (he will be speaking at Ground Zero on Thursday and appearing on 60 Minutes on Sunday).
So we are left with the preposterous state of affairs in which the following headlines appear hour by hour on the Drudge Report: This is a complete and total fiasco -- an embarrassment of massive proportions. According to Leon Panetta, the President who ordered US soldiers to carry out this unbelievably dangerous mission into an ally's sovereign soil, did not watch the actual shooting of bin Laden notwithstanding the photo released by the White House purporting to show Obama and the national security team "monitoring the mission against Osama bin Laden in real time from the White House Situation Room" (notice the Commander in Chief sitting to the side with no laptop, papers, or other information from which to garner up to the minute information).
It is difficult not to wonder why the man who claims full responsibility for the success of this military incursion has not been able to share more details of the plan and how it was carried out, more information about Pakistan's involvement (or lack thereof), and put to bed the rumor mill that is growing minute by minute.
Stephens concluded his oped with the opinion that "[i]f ever there was a doubt about just how American Mr. Obama is, Sunday's raid eliminates it better than any long-form birth certificate." I cannot disagree more. Not only has the President done everything possible to downplay American exceptionalism and global leadership to date and overseen horrific foreign policy failures for which our country and our strategic allies will be paying the price for decades to come, but he has created just as much confusion and gossip over the killing of OBL as he did over his place of birth. When will this administration learn that the country needs transparency, not secrecy?
As more information becomes available, such as the fact that Obama took 16 hours to make his final decision because he had to "sleep on it," he continues to look like the incompetent leader that he is. According to this report, "the president stunned officials when he told a national security meeting that he wanted more time to think -- and disappeared out of the room. The head of the CIA and other senior intelligence officers who were keen to proceed were left tense as they waited for the president's decision."
While I too celebrate the death of OBL, I will not sleep better tonight knowing that he is gone. For the reality is that the man who will receives the 3am wake-up call for another 18 months is still not up to the task and he continues to prove himself more and more incompetent every day.