What Bolton forgot about 2009 (and 1969)

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I wanted to follow up briefly on John Bolton’s shot, on Mitt Romney’s behalf, against President Obama’s counter-terrorism record.

Specifically, the right-wing former ambassador made this argument on Friday in South Carolina:

“You know, the irony is, he’s campaigning on the basis that he’s a success as a foreign policy president,” Bolton said. “It’s just really amazing and you ask, What is it that made the success? And it’s because Navy SEAL Team 6 killed Osama bin Laden. That’s his definition of success. As somebody pointed out, in 1969 when Americans landed on the moon, it’s like Richard Nixon taking for credit for that, because it happened to occur during his presidency.”

I explained yesterday how foolish this is. President Obama took an enormous risk when he ordered the strike. The responsibility for weighing the evidence and the dangers was his alone, and it was up to the president to make the call. Bolton would have us believe Obama was merely a bystander to events, which is plainly untrue.

But we can take this much further. Whereas the Bush/Cheney administration made a conscious, deliberate decision to deemphasize capturing the al Qaeda leader, Obama chose to shift the emphasis back.

“[F]rom early in his administration Obama was focused on killing Osama Bin Laden and that he was involved in the process throughout. In June 2009, Obama directed his CIA director to “provide me within 30 days a detailed operation plan for locating and bringing to justice” Osama Bin Laden. By August 2010 intelligence officials had identified the suspicious compound where Osama lived.”

It was Obama who instructed the CIA to make targeting bin Laden a top priority, breaking with his predecessor. It was Obama who oversaw five national security meetings to oversee plans for this operation. It was Obama who chose this mission, made final preparations, and gave the order.

This “happened to occur during his presidency”? That’s garbage, plain and simple.

Postscript: Reader B.H. noted the irony on Bolton’s Nixon reference: “Actually, Richard Nixon did everything he could to take credit for the moon landing. He attended the launch of Apollo 11 in person; he phoned the astronauts during their moonwalk; he had photo opps with them while they were still in their isolation chamber (we actually feared they would bring back infectious lunar organisms); and he took moon rocks with him to present to foreign leaders as gifts. Compared to the way Obama has conducted himself since the bin Laden capture, Nixon did a victory dance.”