In the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death, one of many debates swirling around the nation is: Which president deserves the credit for ridding the world of the number one terrorist leader? Everyone seems to agree the U.S. military and intelligence community both deserve a great deal of credit and thanks, but should history praise former President George W. Bush for putting the foreign policies and priorities in place that eventually led to bin Laden’s demise? Or President Barack Obama for leading the national security team that actually got the final results?
The media has touted the new development as a great success for the president. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney have both congratulated Obama; however, as Salon’s Natasha Lennard notes, Fox News at least initially focused on toasting Bush for his years of leadership instead. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld credits both presidents. "All of this was made possible by the relentless, sustained pressure on al Qaeda that the Bush administration initiated after 9/11 and that the Obama administration has wisely chosen to continue," he posted on Facebook.
As U.S. News bloggers Susan Milligan and Scott Galupo point out, what happened over the last weekend was almost exactly what Obama unknowingly predicted back in the Democratic primaries for the 2008 election. “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [Pakistan’s president] won’t act, we will,” Obama said. At the time, then candidates Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden criticized Obama for his statement as being irresponsible and naïve, but the successful U.S. mission, Milligan writes, vindicates Obama’s "impressive" feat. [See a transcript of Obama's speech on bin Laden death.]
Even U.S. News blogger Alvin Felzenberg, typically a tough critic of the president, suggests Obama proved himself a competent commander in chief in light of last week’s bizarre schedule that included birther drama, an Oprah appearance, a visit to flood-torn Alabama, and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “Aware that the final battle against bin Laden was being planned and waged,” he writes, “Obama went through what had to have been a most atypical routine—even for presidents—without showing signs of stress, anguish, or discomfort.”
But Felzenberg also credits Bush, who he says “spoke confidently and courageously to the world about the values that made the United States a great and just nation. This weekend, the military carried out that promise [of killing bin Laden] in his name.” [See photos of reactions to Osama bin Laden's death.]
A New York Times/CBS poll shows approval of Obama's handling of foreign policy got a 13-point bump to 52 percent after bin Laden's death, and the president's overall approval is up to 57 percent. But not everyone is climbing on the Obama bandwagon. U.S. News blogger Peter Roff suggests Obama's allies are using “this game-changing event as a way to promote the presidency of Barack Obama.” The president deserves “kudos” for the operation, Roff writes, but “it seems there has been a constant and ongoing effort to make sure Obama’s stamp—and no one else’s—is on the operation.”
What do you think? Which president deserves credit for Osama bin Laden’s demise? Take the poll and post your thoughts below.
-- Mallie Jane Kim
This poll is now closed, but the debate continues in the comments section.