On Tuesday morning the Wall Street Journal carried a very unusual op-ed.
The author was a former Attorney General of the United States, Michael Mukasy, who had served on the federal bench for 18 years before taking on the top job in federal law enforcement. As a federal district court judge, Mukasey had presided over the trial of Omar Abdel Rahman, the “blind Sheik,” one of the original confederates of bin Laden, a vantage point from which the highly esteemed jurist became deeply acquainted with the intricacies of the jihadist network.
As AG, Mukasey took on a key leadership role in the war on terror, and he is widely respected across both sides of the political divide for his stewardship of that office.
Which is why his piece, titled “Obama and the bin Laden Bragging Rights,” was such a stunning and strong rebuke to the president and his political team. Mukasey is not a political figure, not a partisan figure, but a senor statesman, one of the “wise men.”
I interviewed the former AG on my radio show the afternoon after his piece was published, a little more than two hours before the president spoke to the American people from Afghanistan. The transcript of this interview is here, but there are some extraordinary parts to this conversation which should be highlighted, beginning with my question about the Journal essay:
HH: Why were you motivated to write this piece?
MM: Well, frankly, when I saw in the newspaper on Saturday that there was going to be this conscious attempt to exploit the bragging rights, and took a look at the statement that he had made at the time of the original announcement, and thought about the fact that he had compromised the intelligence value of that achievement by talking about seizing a trove of intelligence, and even disclosing that we had found out about the places where al Qaeda safe houses were located, there comes a point where really, it’s hard to restrain yourself. And I just sat down and I wrote it in something like a couple of hours. I was just, I was fairly upset.
That upset led the former AG to focus on one oft-overlooked aspect of the decision to authorize the mission to kill bin Laden –that the president had arranged to be able to distance himself from failure: