On the heels of yesterday's stunning announcement that al Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden had been killed in a firefight with American special forces units, republican lawmakers, conservative columnists and even average Americans are somewhat perplexed as to who should get credit for taking down the world's most wanted terrorist. Some, like Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty have shown their integrity by giving President his due. "[A] job well done," said Pawlenty in refering to the actions of his possible 2012 political adversary. Others, like Pawlenty's fellow Minnesotan (and fellow potential presidential candidate) Michele Bachman were less complimentary, choosing instead to give credit to our military and intelligence community. She failed to mention the fact that Mr. Obama is not only the current head of our military, but also is responsible for giving the go ahead for the mission to take place. Still others, like republican majority leader John Boehner chose to praise both President Obama and President Bush. Finally, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who once uttered the famous phrase, "I hope Obama fails," was effusive in his praise of the President, effusive to the point of sarcasm, saying, "[I]t was President Obama single-handedly and alone who came up with the strategy that brought about the effective assassination of Osama bin Laden." Limbaugh also commented that President Obama had continued President Bush's policies of keeping a military presence in the Middle East. Whether or not this statement was sarcastic is debatable.
While it is understandable that some conservatives are hesitant to give too much praise (or too little in LImbaugh's case) to their biggest political adversary, they shouldn't attempt to give credit where none is due. Not only did President Bush preside over the worst attack on our country in over a half a century, he failed to bring to justice the man responsible for it. Bush and his advisors ignored warnings from intelligence experts like Richard Clarke. Then, after they failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks, they wrongly attempted to link them to Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
What's more, in December 2001 coalition forces had bin Laden pinned down (or so they believed) in the mountains of Tora Bora, near the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. They were listening in on his radio transmissions. They even got within a few thousand yards of him. However, instead of letting our military finish the job, a decision was made to use Afghani fighters to lead the attack. Unfortunately, these fighters not only would relinquish ground gained during daily fighting to return home each evening, but also (at one point) held their American soldiers at gun point for 12 hours, presumably while bin Laden escaped to Pakistan. Whatsmore, two plans that were developed by a former Delta Force commander to take out bin Laden were rejected by unknown higher ups. While it probably wasn't President Bush, himself, who rejected these plans, he was the Commander in Chief. Ultimately, it was his responsibility to ensure that the plan worked, and he failed. Once the trail on bin Laden went cold, Bush refocused the American military on an expensive and ill-adivised invasion of Iraq.
Compare that to the actions of President Obama who pulled most of our military forces out of Iraq; added troops in Afghanistan to keep the pressure on al Qaeda; developed a plan, with our intelligence and military officers, over months to not only get bin Laden, but ensure that the results of the action could be verified; and didn't outsource our military responsibilities to foreign fighters. The mission may, in fact, cause increased political friction between the United States and Pakistan. But President Obama was willing to risk it. President Bush, it seemed, was not.
If someone creates a mess and then leaves he should not be given credit when someone else comes in and cleans up after him. That is what is happening here. When President Bush entered office our country was at peace. The economy booming and the government was running a budget surplus. We were actually paying down the debt. Within a few short years all of this had changed. President Bush more than doubled the size of our national debt. His actions got thousands of our soldiers killed (and tens of thousands wounded) in an unnecessary war in Iraq. He lied to the country about weapons of mass destruction, and he allowed our military to use interrogation techniques that bordered on torture. He also pushed through deregulation policies that helped spur our nation's worst economic collapse in nearly a century. In short, he left our nation in much worse shape than he inherited it. How about we not give him too much credit.