Take Note, Tea Party: Government Workers Got Osama bin Laden

Navy SEALs, career intelligence workers, Clinton, and Obama--all government workers--deserve credit for bin Laden's demise.

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To the anti-union governors, the Tea Partyers, the whiner down the street who is convinced that everyone in the public sector enjoys a high salary and benefits for doing a cushy job, let us consider the government worker whose effort we have witnessed in the past week.

[See photos of reactions to Osama bin Laden's death.]

Let’s start with all the career intelligence staffers—and this includes those who worked under the Bush administration—who have been looking for clues for a decade to chase down and capture or kill Osama bin Laden. These include people who may have had small successes that led to last week’s big success. Or they may have had enormous successes we don’t even know about: Who can say how many major terrorist attacks our teams at the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, the White House, and the Pentagon have averted through good intelligence work? They can’t say. It would endanger their work. And when people complain about what they do—or don’t do—they just have to suck it up and keep quiet, lest they tip off terrorists.

There are some pretty high-level government workers to thank—President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. First, kudos to Obama for offering Clinton the job at State after a bruising and testy primary fight. Kudos to Clinton, as well, for accepting it. Being in government service, at any level, means setting aside personal gripes for the sake of the public. They both did that. And if Clinton had a problem with the United States going into Pakistan to get bin Laden—an idea she questioned during the primary campaign—she surely got over it, and presumably was deeply involved in the diplomatic gymnastics required before and after the raid. [Vote now: Which president deserves credit for Osama bin Laden’s demise?]

And how about the Navy SEALs, who are, after all, government workers as well? They conducted a brilliant surgical strike on the most wanted man in the world, and we will likely never know their names, never be able to approach them on the street just to say thanks. They’re used to that; they are, I imagine, OK with that. Service isn’t about personal aggrandizement or fame. It’s about doing your job, sometimes anonymously.

And underneath these teams are the support staff who helped the intelligence workers and high-ranking officials and military people do their jobs. They, too, helped make this mission happen.

To the antigovernment forces who repeatedly ask the (hopefully) rhetorical question, "What good is government? Name me one government program that has worked." Of course, we can start with roads and bridges, public libraries, Social Security, public education, and a raft of other items. But for those who can’t even see the value in those public works, we have the teams that worked for a decade, over two administrations, to get bin Laden. This is what your government does, and it was carried out by government workers. They deserve thanks—not derision.

  • See photos of reactions to Osama bin Laden's death.
  • Vote now:Is Obama right not to release post-mortem Osama bin Laden photos?
  • See a transcript of Obama's speech on bin Laden death.
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