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15 Benghazi Tips from President Bush and the GOP

May 6, 2014

In the 20 months since four Americans were killed in the attack on the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, two official investigations reached pretty much the same conclusions. The State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) looking into the tragedy attack each found an opportunistic attack that should have been prevented but was not due to poor intelligence, inadequate security on the ground and dismal information sharing between the U.S. military, the State Department and the CIA. There was no military response that could have been launched in time to save Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. And there was no cover up by the Obama administration.
But that just won't do for a Republican Party determined to exploit their deaths to sabotage President Obama and his possible successor, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. So, the American people will be subjected to the spectacle of endless hearings, deceptive leaks, fabricated stories and altered emails through the November midterms and beyond, all because the GOP and its right-wing allies can't handle the truth.
Which is why when President George W. Bush and his defenders found themselves besieged by real scandals, they didn't turn to the truth as a defense. Instead, Bush and his minions turned to these 15 tactics (among others) to survive.

1. Accuse the Opposition of Slandering the President. During his second debate with Mitt Romney in October 2012, President Obama made a simple point regarding the Republican's baseless charges:

"The suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our UN ambassador, anybody on my team, would play politics or mislead when we lost four of our own, governor, is offensive."

Many of Romney's GOP allies must have been nodding their heads in agreement. After all, in May 2002, Republicans circled the wagons around President Bush after revelations that the administration had been warned about possible Al-Qaeda plans to hijack an aircraft in advance of 9/11. (Americans later learned about the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief titled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.") But when Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle asked "Why did it take eight months for us to receive this information?" and called for a blue-ribbon commission to investigate, the GOP's top brass railed to Bush's defense. Daschle's Republican counterpart Trent Lott denounced the demands for an inquiry:

"I really think there's nothing more despicable ... for someone to insinuate that the president of the United States knew there was an attack on our country that was imminent and didn't do anything about it. For us to be talking like our enemy, George W. Bush instead of Osama bin Laden, that's not right."

Lott's colleague Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) agreed:

"I don't think that anyone should start pointing fingers in a personal way or suggest that people are trying to cover their political backsides. I just think that's ridiculous. I think we need to go forward. We need to be positive. There are failures. We need to get to the root of it and try to make our country more secure."

(As we later learned, President Bush's reaction to the August 6, 2001 PDB briefing he received was, "All right, you've covered your ass now.")
2. Oppose the Investigation. As the chorus grew in early 2002 to create a commission to investigate the 9/11 attacks that killed 3,000 people, President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their allies said no. While Cheney warned "the people and agencies responsible for helping us learn about and defeat such an attack are the very ones most likely to be distracted from their critical duties if Congress fails to carry out their obligations in a responsible fashion," House Majority Leader Tom Delay declared:

"A public commission investigating American intelligence in a time of war is ill conceived and, frankly, irresponsible. We need to address America's challenges in intelligence gathering and terrorist prevention. But we don't need to hand the terrorists an after-action report."

3. Agree to Testify, But Not Under Oath. Ultimately, President Bush yielded to mounting public pressure and agreed to support the 9/11 Commission under the aegis of Henry Kissinger. (Unwilling to reveal his financial interests, Kissinger withdrew.) But as for his own participation, Bush agreed to testify, but on the conditions that he be questioned behind closed doors jointly with Vice President Cheney and neither man would be under oath. As President Bush explained in his White House meeting with the 9/11 commissioners on April 29, 2004:

"If we had something to hide, we wouldn't have met with them in the first place. I came away good about the session, because I wanted them to know, you know, how I set strategy, how we run the White House, how we deal with threats.
The vice president answered a lot of their questions, answered all their questions. And I think it was important for them to see our body language as well, how we work together."

4. Ignore Congressional Subpoenas. Of course, when it came to Congressional investigations of the Bush administration's politically motivated purge of U.S. attorneys, Vice President Cheney insisted White House personnel should be neither seen nor heard. Calling the outcry over the prosecutors' firings "a bit of a witch hunt," Cheney and his boss made sure their team did not honor any Congressional subpoenas:

The Bush White House directed chief of staff Joshua Bolten, political director Karl Rove, former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor all to ignore subpoenas from Congress. In 2008, a federal judge ruled that it was unconstitutional to do so.

And at the end of President George W. Bush's tenure, the White House instructed top officials not to cooperate with any future congressional inquiries into alleged administration misdeeds.
5. Claim Executive Privilege. In the GOP book of Scandal Defenses for Dummies, the first entry on page one is to claim executive privilege.
That is precisely what the Bush White House did when it came to Dick Cheney's secret energy task force. In 2001 Cheney and his clandestine energy task force held dozens of meetings with 300 groups and individuals in formulating Bush administration policy. Among them was Enron CEO and Bush "Pioneer" Ken Lay. And as Paul Krugman noted in speculating about the group's role in altering "new source review" and other policies, "the day after the executive director of Mr. Cheney's task force left the government, he went into business as an energy industry lobbyist." Nevertheless, the Bush administration fought requests by the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch for information about the participants under the Federal Advisory Committee Act all the way to the Supreme Court. (In September 2004, Darrell Issa was among the 30 GOP members of the House Energy Committee who blocked a Democratic resolution which sought "the names of individuals who worked behind closed doors with Vice President Cheney's energy task force to craft the Bush administration's national energy policy."
For his part, Dick Cheney claimed in 2007 that the Bush White House was "very responsible" in supplying information to lawmakers, but that "sometimes requests have been made that clearly fall outside the boundaries." And as he made clear again in his memoirs, his secret energy task force was one of those cases:

"We had the right to consult with whomever we chose--and no obligation to tell the press or Congress or anybody else whom we were talking to. .... I believed something larger was at stake: the power of the presidency and the ability of the president and vice president to carry out their constitutional duties." When they won the fight, he says, "It was a major victory both for us and for the power of the executive branch."

Unless, Cheney's allies now insist, that executive branch is headed by a Democrat.
6. Threaten to Fire the Wrongdoers--and Then Don't. No member of the Bush administration lost his or her job over the catastrophic failure to prevent the slaughter of 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. None were sacked over the invasion and occupation of Iraq that killed over 4,000 more Americans, wounded 30,000 and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
But there was one occasion when President Bush threatened to do so and, of course, never did. In the summer of 2003, Team Bush outed covert CIA operative Valerie Plame after her husband Joe Wilson's July op-ed debunked the president's bogus claim that Iraq sought yellowcake uranium in Niger. In June 2004, President Bush declared he would "fire anyone found to" have leaked the agent's name. But after the revelations that Rove and Cheney chief of staff Scooter Libby had spoken to reporters about Plame, Bush in July 2005 raised the bar for dismissal, instead announcing that only if anyone on his staff committed a crime in the CIA leak case, that person will "no longer work in my administration." Regardless, it had long been clear that Bush had no intention of getting to the bottom of the wrongdoing by his closest aides. As President Bush explained to a questioner during his October 7, 2003 press conference:

"I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth. That's why I've instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators--full disclosure, everything we know the investigators will find out. I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is--partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers. But we'll find out."

Not, it turned out, with any help from President Bush and his White House team. In October 2005, Thomas DeFrank of the New York Daily News reported, "Bush was initially furious with Rove in 2003 when his deputy chief of staff conceded he had talked to the press about the Plame leak." As one of DeFrank's sources put it:

"Bush did not feel misled so much by Karl and others as believing that they handled it in a ham-handed and bush-league way."

But one person who did feel misled was Bush's press secretary, Scott McClellan. As he revealed in his book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and What's Wrong with Washington, McClellan revealed:

The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.
There was one problem. It was not true.
I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the President himself.

7. Accuse the Opposition of "Criminalizing Politics." Dating back to at least the presidency of George H.W. Bush, Republicans and their media water carriers have turned to the "criminalizing politics" evasion when confronted with the lawlessness and wrongdoing of their leaders. After first deploying the criminalization of politics defense during Iran-Contra, conservative relied on their trusted talking point for the U.S. attorneys purge, the Scooter Libby case, the indictment of Tom Delay and the Bush administration's regime of detainee torture.
In the spring of 2009, the Wall Street Journal, Powerline and the usual suspects in the right-wing noise machine were at it again. Investigating potential war crimes by the Bush White House, they argued, constituted "criminalizing conservatism" itself:

Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret ...
Above all, the exercise will only embitter Republicans, including the moderates and national-security hawks Mr. Obama may need in the next four years. As patriotic officials who acted in good faith are indicted, smeared, impeached from judgeships or stripped of their academic tenure, the partisan anger and backlash will grow ...
Mr. Obama is more popular than his policies, due in part to his personal charm and his seeming goodwill. By indulging his party's desire to criminalize policy advice, he has unleashed furies that will haunt his Presidency.

Of course, none of that right-wing hysteria came to pass in large part because the Obama administration adopted the very "criminalization of politics" canard supplied by the Republicans. As Attorney General Eric Holder promised during his confirmation hearings in January 2009, "We don't want to criminalize policy differences that might exist" with the outgoing Bush White House." Even with subsequent boasting by President Bush and Vice President Cheney about their use of waterboarding, there has been no probe. And if the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on torture is ever publicly released, no doubt Republicans will once again protest that Democrats are "criminalizing conservatism."
8. Attack the Victim... To be sure, Republicans were quick to deploy the "criminalizing politics" defense during the Plamegate affair and the subsequent indictment and conviction of Cheney chief-of-staff Scooter Libby. But their counterattack didn't end there.
During March 2007 hearings on the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, current Benghazi Grand Inquisitor Darrell Issa rushed to the Bush administration's defense. Plame, Issa suggested, was guilty of perjury:

"I believe that his wife will soon be asking for a pardon. She has not been genuine in her testimony before Congress, if pursued, Ambassador Wilson and Valerie will be asking to put this behind us. I do not believe this was good use of the Committee's time. I hope we will have a real debate about proper use of clemency."

Issa had plenty of company. That same day, his Committee heard from a witness who rejected the CIA's own description of Valerie Plame as a clandestine officer at the agency. The GOP's attack dog that day? Victoria Toensing, the same Victoria Toensing now representing the so-called Benghazi whistleblowers.
9. ...And Attack the Victims' Families. During the last weeks of the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney was criticized for trying to appropriate the Benghazi victims for his campaign. (Among those pushing back was the father of Ambassador Stevens and the mother of the former Navy SEAL killed there.)
But back in 2007, current House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa had a novel approach. During committee hearings into the slaughter of four private security contractors in Fallujah, Iraq, Issa defended Blackwater by mocking the victims' families to their faces:

"Although I don't think your testimony today is particularly germane to the oversight of this committee, I am deeply sorry for the losses that you've had...One question I have is, the opening statement, who wrote it?"

10. Use a Popular Military Hero as a Human Shield. Congressman Issa wasn't content to accuse the Fallujah families of using the committee hearing to advance a lawsuit against Blackwater. Later that year during October 2007 hearings on Blackwater, Issa introduced a new charge. Committee Democrats, he declared, were motivated not by a genuine desire to help either the Fallujah families or to get to the bottom of Blackwater's shady practices. Instead, Darrell Issa insisted, it was all a vendetta against President Bush's commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus:

I think it's been made incredibly clear by the previous statements on the Democrats side that this is not about Blackwater. [...]What we're hearing today is in fact a repeat of the attack on General Petraeus' patriotism.
What we're seeing is that, except for the 79 members who voted against denouncing, eight of whom are on the dais here today, what we're seeing is what they couldn't do to our men and women in uniform, they'll simply switch targets.
The bodies were not cold in Iraq before this became a story worth going after here in committee.
I'm not here to defend Blackwater.
But I am here to defend General Petraeus and the men and women in uniform who do their job, who were first denounced by, then not denounced by members of Congress, many of whom are on the dais today, speaking as though they don't support attacking every possible way the administration's war in Iraq.

But Issa's defense of Petraeus lasted only as long as Republican George W. Bush remained in the White House. In May 2013, now Chairman Issa told NBC's David Gregory that CIA Chief Petraeus had done President Obama's bidding in covering up the tragedy at Benghazi:

GREGORY: Chairman, my reporting of the immediate aftermath of this talking to administration officials is that CIA Director David Petraeus made it clear when he briefed top officials that there--that there was a spontaneous element to this, that it was not completely known that this was a terrorist attack right away. You don't give any credence to the notion that there was some fog of war, that there were--there were conflicting circumstances about what went on here.
REP. ISSA: David Petraeus said what the administration wanted him to say is the indication. Ambassador Pickering heard what the administration wanted to hear.

11. Say the Administration Lost the Emails Due to Buggy Software. Conservatives have cried foul that the recently released email from Obama administration national security official Ben Rhodes did not come to light earlier. But as you'll recall, millions of Bush White House emails conveniently went missing between 2003 and 2005, including those in the critical days during which the administration formulated its response to Ambassador Joe Wilson and his covert CIA operative wife, Valerie Plame. In July 2007, Darrell Issa accused Plame of perjury. Then, in February 2008, Issa turned IT expert and brushed off the email imbroglio as merely a software problem:

During a House Oversight Committee hearing last month on the preservation of White House records, an indignant Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a frequent critic of Chairman Henry Waxman's investigations, did his best to play down the extent of the Bush administration's now well-documented email archiving problems. Defending the White House's decision to switch from the Lotus Notes-based archiving system used by the Clinton administration, Issa compared the software to "using wooden wagon wheels" and Sony Betamax tapes. To observers of the missing emails controversy, Issa's comments seemed little more than an attempt to deflect blame from the White House for replacing a working system for archiving presidential records with an ad hoc substitute. But to IT professionals who use Lotus at their companies, Issa's remarks seemed controversial, if not downright slanderous. Now, according to an executive at IBM, the software's manufacturer, the California congressman has apologized for his characterization of Lotus and offered to correct the congressional record.

Thanks to the now-settled lawsuit filed by the National Security Archive and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington [CREW], Americans learned in 2009 that "the Bush White House, which initially denied that any e-mails had gone missing, announced in January it had located more than 22 million messages that had been mislabeled after a search by computer technicians, according to court records filed by the government on the day after Bush left office."
12. Delay the Findings for Years. After learning that there were in fact no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2003 launched an investigation. But thanks to the maneuvering of GOP Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), the committee divided its work into two phases. But Phase 2, the probe dealing with the Bush administration's uses and misuses of pre-war intelligence, would not be completed until after the November 2004 election. (The Silbermann-Robb commission similarly punted on that vital question, noting that "Well, on the [that] point, we duck. That is not part of our charter.")
When the Phase 1 report was published in July 2004, Roberts crowed, "the committee found no evidence that the intelligence community's mischaracterization or exaggeration of intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities was the result of politics or pressure." But as Vice Chairmen Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) protested:

"There is a real frustration over what is not in this report, and I don't think was mentioned in Chairman Roberts' statement, and that is about the--after the analysts and the intelligence community produced an intelligence product, how is it then shaped or used or misused by the policy-makers? So again there's genuine frustration--and Chairman Roberts and I have discussed this many times--that virtually everything that has to do with the administration has been relegated to phase two. My hope is that we will get this done as soon as possible."

But in March 2005, Roberts announced that Phase 2 "is basically on the back burner." As he explained:

"I don't think there should be any doubt that we have now heard it all regarding prewar intelligence. I think that it would be a monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further...To go through that exercise, it seems to me, in a post-election environment--we didn't see how we could do that and achieve any possible progress. I think everybody pretty well gets it."

As ThinkProgress documented, GOP Chairman Pat Roberts delayed the Phase 2 analysis yet again, ensuring there was "virtually no chance of being completed before the fall [2006] elections."
But Democrats won those 2006 midterm elections in what President Bush called "a thumpin'." And finally, on June 5, 2008, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence now chaired by Senator Rockefeller published its Phase 2 report. As McClatchy reported, Republicans Chuck Hagel and Susan Collins joined the Democratic majority in concluding that "Bush knew Iraq claims weren't true."
13. Give Rice Better Sound Bites. In the fall of 2012, Republican Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham announced they would try to block a potential appointment of UN Ambassador Susan Rice to succeed Hillary Clinton. Calling Rice "not very bright," McCain blasted her September 16, 2012 statements about the Benghazi killings to ABC's This Week.
Of course, when the Rice in question was named Condoleezza and worked for a Republican president, John McCain took a different tactic. After all, Condi Rice famously warned of Saddam's non-existent weapons of mass destruction, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." In 2004, she sheepishly described the critical August 6, 2001 presidential daily brief admitted to the 9/11 Commission, "I believe the title was 'Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.'"
Nevertheless, when Bush's National Security Adviser was nominated for Secretary of State in 2005, John McCain declared "Condoleezza Rice is a great American success story" and "a person of integrity." Slamming those who "challenged her integrity," McCain groused:

"I see this [as] some lingering bitterness over a very tough campaign. I hope it dissipates soon."

14. Declare That "Nobody Could Have Predicted" the Disaster. When in doubt, Republicans will never hesitate to blame their catastrophic failings on an act of God. The scandals, tragedies and wrong-doing which unfolded on their watch were all simply unknowable.
The uses of the "nobody could have expected" defense were legion during the Bush administration. After Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans, President Bush wrongly explained, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." After 9/11, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice protested, "I don't think anybody could have predicted" that terrorists "would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." (After Hamas won the Palestinian elections her State Department pushed, Rice lamented that "I've asked why nobody saw it coming. It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse.") While Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in April 2003 brushed off the growing chaos in Baghdad by announcing, "Stuff happens," President Bush in August 2004 had another explanation for the bloodbath and mounting American casualties his invasion of Iraq produced:

"Had we had to do it [the invasion of Iraq] over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success--being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day."

Even in its last throes, the Bush White House insisted the disasters which unfolded on its watch were unforeseeable. Just days before leaving office, Vice President Dick Cheney tried to deflect blame for the calamity on Wall Street and the deepening recession by declaring, "Nobody anywhere was smart enough to figure that out" and "I don't know that anybody did." Then, Cheney magically converted failure into a virtue and ignorance into a shield in explaining away the Bush presidency:

"No, obviously, I wouldn't have predicted that. On the other hand I wouldn't have predicted 9/11, the global war on terror, the need to simultaneous run military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq or the near collapse of the financial system on a global basis, not just the U.S."

15. Make Fun of Your Mistakes That Killed Americans. During that debate with Mitt Romney, President Obama explained why everyone should take him at his word when it came to the deaths of four brave Americans in Benghazi:

"I'm the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home, so you know I mean what I say."

Mercifully, Obama chose not to follow in President Bush's footsteps and just make fun of the thousands of Americans whom he sent to die in Iraq.
In his presentation at the 2004 Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner, President George W. Bush showed his contempt for the truth and the suffering of the American people. His tasteless White House slideshow made light of the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the justification Bush offered for the war in the first place. Coming one year and hundreds of American dead and wounded after the invasion of Iraq, President Bush the cut-up hoped to regale the audience with his White House hijinks. As David Corn of The Nation reported:

Bush notes he spends "a lot of time on the phone listening to our European allies." Then we see a photo of him on the phone with a finger in his ear. But at one point, Bush showed a photo of himself looking for something out a window in the Oval Office, and he said, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere." The audience laughed. I grimaced. But that wasn't the end of it. After a few more slides, there was a shot of Bush looking under furniture in the Oval Office. "Nope," he said. "No weapons over there." More laughter. Then another picture of Bush searching in his office: "Maybe under here." Laughter again.

Since we're all having so much fun now, here's a bonus tip from President Bush to President Obama on handling Benghazi.
16. BONUS TIP: Say You Just Don't Worry about Their Killer and Leave Taking Him Out to Your Successor. "Republicans in Congress," the conservative Washington Times reported this week, protest that President Obama "promised to bring the perpetrators of the Benghazi attack to justice, yet nobody has been apprehended more than 18 months later."
That's a pretty amazing charge for them to make. After all, just days after the September 11 carnage which occurred on his watch, President Bush boasted of Osama Bin Laden, "There's an old poster out west, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'" But when he ambled out of the White House on January 29, 2009, Bush hadn't done either.
The explanation for his failure is no mystery. After Bin Laden escaped the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan his administration tried to wage on the cheap, President Bush declared that capturing the Al-Qaeda chieftain didn't matter anyway. Besides, Bush refused to send American forces into Pakistan to hunt Bin Laden and his lieutenants down. And we know this, because President George W. Bush told us so.
Questioned about his silence regarding Bin Laden in the months following the failure to nab Bin Laden in Tora Bora, a nonchalant Bush on March 13, 2002, downplayed his significance:

"So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you...I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."

Bush may have been embarrassed by his failure to capture Bin Laden in 2002, but by the fall of 2004, he faced the prospect of American voters who seemed to recall the murder of 3,000 of their countrymen. In the third presidential debate with John Kerry, a childlike Bush on October 13, 2004, tried for a "do over" of his statement two and a half years earlier:

"Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations. Of course we're worried about Osama bin Laden."

Not worried enough, it turned out, to commit U.S. troops to Bin Laden's killing or capture in the tribal areas of Pakistan. In 2005, it was his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who cancelled the U.S. special forces operation designed to "snatch and grab" Ayman al-Zawahiri and other senior Al-Qaeda leaders. The story, following July 2006 revelations that the CIA had previously disbanded its Bin Laden unit, gives lie to one of the central tenets of the so-called Bush Doctrine: no safe havens for terrorists. As the New York Times reported in July 2007, Rumsfeld ran roughshod over then CIA Director Porter Goss, scuttling the mission at the last moment even as the U.S. forces were boarding planes for the assault:

But the mission was called off after Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, rejected an 11th-hour appeal by Porter J. Goss, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. Members of a Navy Seals unit in parachute gear had already boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan when the mission was canceled, said a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning.
Mr. Rumsfeld decided that the operation, which had ballooned from a small number of military personnel and C.I.A. operatives to several hundred, was cumbersome and put too many American lives at risk, the current and former officials said. He was also concerned that it could cause a rift with Pakistan, an often reluctant ally that has barred the American military from operating in its tribal areas, the officials said.

As it turned out, President Bush and his would-be successors John McCain and Mitt Romney all opposed then candidate Barack Obama's promise that "that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights." Asked by Chris Wallace of Fox News in February 2008 if "voters know enough about him [Obama]," Bush replied:

"I certainly don't know what he believes in. The only foreign policy thing I remember he said was he's going to attack Pakistan."

Of course, that's not what Obama said. In 2011, he did what he promised and got Osama Bin Laden. Dead, not alive.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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