Monthly Archives: May 2012

BOLD AND DECISIVE AFTER SIXTEEN HOURS

‘”And then, finally, Mr. Obama spoke: “I’m not going to tell you what my decision is now — I’m going to go back and think about it some more.” But he added, “I’m going to make a decision soon.””

‘”Sixteen hours later, he had made up his mind.”‘

Those quotes came from the New York Times on May 3, 2011, exploring details about the decision President Barack Obama had to make about whether or not to give clearance for the Navy Seals to kill Osama bin Laden.

But that was a year ago, but to hear the President and Vice President tell it today, the decision was much easier than the New York Times reported that it actually was for Obama to make.

Sixteen hours. Whether Obama spent most of that nervously pacing the floor or sleeping on it, a lot could have happened in that time.

But the NYT also reported that there was further delay: “The earliest the operation could take place was Saturday, but officials cautioned that cloud cover in the area meant that Sunday was much more likely.”

Another detail reported by the Times that isn’t lost on me is that business as usual had to be interrupted for the communication regarding the operation: “On Sunday, White House officials canceled all
West Wing tours so unsuspecting tourists and visiting celebrities wouldn’t accidentally run into all the high-level national security officials holed up in the Situation Room.”

That could have easily prompted suspicion and attracted unwanted attention to the situation.

My point is that if Obama had immediately made the decision after a single hour of thought, there still were risks. We live in a time where a single piece of information can be learned by a worldwide audience in a matter of minutes. There are a lot of ways the proverbial cat could have escaped the bag, and if it had, that sixteen hours could now be infamous.

President Obama said this at a White House news conference yesterday, apparently referring to quotes by Mitt Romney from 2007 regarding the hunt for bin Laden:

“I assume that people meant what they said when they said it…that’s at least been my practice.”

In my work, I have often quoted the president saying things that his defenders either refuse to acknowledge or will say “that’s not what he meant.”

We now know Obama has meant everything he has said.

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