Obama Kept His Promise on bin Laden

Obama quietly hunted Osama -- just like he said he would when he ran for the White House.

Posted:
 
obama20osama400
Getty Images

A few minutes into his monologue at Saturday evening's White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, Saturday Night Live's Seth Meyers did an Osama bin Laden joke that had President Barack Obama laughing and smiling, seated on the dais in black tie and revealing nothing as U.S. special forces prepared an assault that left bin Laden dead 24 hours later.

The president's on-camera chuckle said as much about his foreign policy posture as anything he's done in the two-plus years of his presidency.

Whether giving the order to snipe a Somali pirate, launching missile strikes in Libya while touring Brazil or attacking al-Qaida leaders with unmanned Predator drones controlled remotely from a Las Vegas Air Force base, the president has exhibited a decidedly icy -- and, to some, surprisingly consistent -- application of military power, flummoxing detractors who've tried for years to cast him as a feckless commander in chief.

Throughout his tenure, opponents like former Vice President Dick Cheney looked to pin the "dithering" tag on Obama to suggest that he's an unfit commander in chief. There's also the view expressed Monday by MSNBC's Joe Scarborough -- while he was attempting to praise Obama -- that in killing bin Laden, Obama went "against his own ideological leanings." But they're both wrong.

If they'd been paying attention, they would have known that fighting bin Laden was what Obama planned to do all along. Contrary to the suppositions of many of the president's critics and a lot of his supporters, Obama never signaled that he'd play the peacenik role as president. On bin Laden especially, he has said the same thing all along:

2002

In the same famous 2002 speech where he said, "I don't oppose all wars ... What I am opposed to is a dumb war," Obama underscored his opposition to the Iraq war by declaring his desire to "finish the fight with bin Laden and al-Qaida."

2008

Debating Sen. John McCain in 2008, then-Sen. Obama -- known then for florid, high-toned speeches -- said plainly that "if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush al-Qaida. That has to be our biggest national security priority." Al-Qaida's not crushed, but it's a campaign promise that was kept.

2009