Bin Laden and the Braggarts

May 1, 2012 Topic: TorturePolitics Region: Afghanistan Blog Brand: The Buzz

Bin Laden and the Braggarts


One year after his death, Osama bin Laden continues to cause problems for President Obama.

Controversy has arisen over whether Obama is taking too much credit for the raid that killed Bin Laden, with pundits accusing him of “[exploiting] the bragging rights to the achievement.” Former U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey took to the Wall Street Journal to excoriate Obama’s handling of the matter.


Mukasey makes two accusations. The first is that the president cares little for intelligence gathering, a claim he supports by noting Obama’s abolishment of the classified interrogation program and “swift decision to reopen investigations of CIA operators for alleged abuses” in connection with that program. Aside from the dubious argument that Obama’s investigation of claims of torture belies his disregard for intelligence gathering, Mukasey’s contention that Obama doesn’t value intelligence is disproved by the staggering increase in covert actions under this administration.

The second accusation is that Obama has inappropriately emphasized his own role in Bin Laden’s death. Mukasey compares Obama’s announcement of Bin Laden’s death with addresses of former presidents Lincoln, Bush and Eisenhower, all of which were laden with praise for the armed forces and intelligence services. In contrast, Mukasey’s choppy, ellipses-laden summary of Obama’s speech depicts an immodest president claiming credit for the work of others.

But a look at the full transcript indicates Obama repeatedly and effusively praised “the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals” and thanked “the men who carried out [the Abbottabad] operation for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.” Mukasey’s clipped version does not do the speech justice.

Mukasey even misquotes Obama, claiming he said that the successful raid came “after years of painstaking work by my intelligence community”—but Obama actually praised “painstaking work by our intelligence community” (see 3:27 in this clip). The discrepancy is small but telling. In his haste to misconstrue Obama’s tone, Mukasey penned an unsubstantiated howler that contributes little to the debate.