One of the gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory? On what basis, and by what measure?
Americans wanted Osama bin Laden -- dead or alive, preferably dead. "How important," asked a 2006 Gallup poll, "do you think it is to the U.S. that Osama bin Laden be captured or killed?" The percentage of Americans who considered the apprehension or killing of bin Laden "somewhat important" to "extremely important" totaled an overwhelming 86 percent. Obama acted in accordance with popular opinion.
Worst-case scenario, the mission failed and bin Laden's guards massacred the SEALs. Obama, we are told, would have suffered the same political setback as did President Jimmy Carter following an unsuccessful military mission. Bad analogy. Carter was already broadly unpopular, fighting off a vigorous intra-party challenge to his renomination from Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. Seventy to 80 percent of Americans actually supported Carter's rescue attempt, and Carter received a brief bump in the polls.
The Gutsy Obama argument also claims Obama "boldly" risked angering Pakistan. But according to the U.K. "Guardian," President Bush and Pakistan's then-leader Pervez Musharraf had secretly agreed -- 10 years ago -- to allow an American military effort on Pakistan soil to capture or kill bin Laden. And, in 2008, when Pakistani elected a civilian government, Bush renewed the arrangement.
Now examine the political and national security risks undertaken by Bush with his 2007 decision to "surge" in Iraq by sending in 21,500 additional troops to reverse the deteriorating situation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Bush a "loser." Critics wrote the war off as a "blunder," "unwinnable," a "civil war." Seventy percent of Americans opposed the surge, according to an AP-Ipsos poll, "and a like number don't think such an increase would help stabilize the situation there."
Then-Sen. Obama opposed the surge and promised to try to stop it. He predicted that it would make things worse: "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse. ... So I am going to actively oppose the president's proposal."