The 2008 debate, revisited

THE 2008 DEBATE, REVISITED…. In July 2008, CNN’s Larry King interviewed then-presidential candidate John McCain. The host asked the Republican senator, “If you were president and knew that bin Laden was in Pakistan, you know where, would you have U.S. forces go in after him?”

McCain said he would not.

“Larry, I’m not going to go there and here’s why: because Pakistan is a sovereign nation.”

This point of contention from the 2008 campaign has generally been forgotten, but for a couple of months, this was a major area of debate. Barack Obama declared he would pursue high-value terrorist targets in Pakistan, launching limited attacks based on actionable intelligence. Republicans insisted this was not only the wrong policy, but that the position was evidence of Obama’s inexperience in matters of national security.

Even Mitt Romney tried a similar tack during a nationally televised GOP debate:

“[Obama] went from going to sit down to tea with our enemies, but then he’s going to bomb our allies. I mean, he’s gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in one week.”

With the benefit of hindsight, I’m comfortable concluding now that Obama was right and his Republican critics were wrong.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.