Romney, Carter and the Order to Get OBL

Via Politico:  Romney on OBL: ‘Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order’

Mitt Romney, asked if he would have given the order to go after Osama bin Laden, as President Obama’s new video and his campaign aides have suggested he wouldn’t have done, per POLITICO’s Ginger Gibson: "Of course, even Jimmy Carter would have given that order."

Well, this is likely true as we know that President Carter ordered Operation Eagle Claw, which was a failed attempt to rescue the hostages being held in the former US embassy in Tehran.

The key word in the above is not “ordered” but, rather, “failed.”  The notion that all orders equal success is simply wrong.   And without getting into anything else, the politics of these order hinge not on the the issuing of commands, but on the success or failure of said orders.  If Eagle Claw has been successful, Carter may have been re-elected in 1980 (granted, this is a counter-factual that is impossible to gauge).  Still, the notion that giving orders is a simple thing and that once given success is guaranteed is simply not true.

Presidents clearly get both too much credit and too much blame, but Romney ought to tread carefully here as it is quite clear that the killing of Osama Bin Laden was a major victory for the US and not some simple lark that Obama blithely chose to pursue.

Had the operation blown up in Obama’s face, as Eagle Claw did to Carter, the political consequences of the order would have been quite different.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. An Interested Party says:

    Had the operation blown up in Obama’s face, as Eagle Claw did to Carter, the political consequences of the order would have been quite different.

    Despite the narrative that some would like us to believe, if the bin Laden operation had failed, the GOP would have crucified the President, and would of used that as a major issue in this year’s presidential campaign…seeing as how it was a success, sauce for the goose and all of that…

  2. anjin-san says:

    Jimmy Carter would have given that order

    Not a very Presidential moment for Romney.

    I think most of us agree Carter was a poor President. That being said, we have to acknowledge that Carter bore the burden of sitting at the big desk, and knows what it is like to live with having given orders that sent men to their deaths. He also served with some distinction in the Navy. Mitt, if memory serves, had a deferment or two.

    And since we know that Romney opposed a mission to get Pakistan, we have to take a moment to remind him that the etch-a-sketch does not work well once you get beyond the 27%.

    Romney attacks Obama over Pakistan warning

    By Steve Holland
    WASHINGTON | Sat Aug 4, 2007 6:50am IST

    (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized Democrat Barack Obama on Friday for vowing to strike al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan if necessary as the Obama camp issued a strident defense of his plan.

    “I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours… I don’t think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort,” Romney told reporters on the campaign trail.

    Obama on Wednesday said if elected president in November 2008 he would be willing to launch military strikes against al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan with or without the approval of the Pakistani government of President Pervez Musharraf.

    “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will,” Obama said.

    Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is one of the Republican front-runners, said U.S. troops “shouldn’t be sent all over the world.” He called Obama’s comments “ill-timed” and “ill-considered.”

    http://in.reuters.com/article/2007/08/04/idINIndia-28811520070804

    I really don’t think this man knows the difference between a lie and the truth.

  3. Jenos Idanian says:

    @An Interested Party: Despite the narrative that some would like us to believe, if the bin Laden operation had failed, the GOP would have crucified the President, and would of used that as a major issue in this year’s presidential campaign…seeing as how it was a success, sauce for the goose and all of that…

    Nah, crucifixion would be too good for that uppity Muslim halfbreed. We’d haul him out of the WHITE House and hanged him from the first tree on the WHITE House lawn.

    That’s what you’d like to believe, in your little fantasy world, isn’t it? Wouldn’t that just give you the hugest thrill? Wouldn’t that pretty much fulfill all the stereotypes you build your entire world-view on? Sorry, ain’t that simple.

    The REALITY is, Obama gets full credit for making the call. But “full credit” means making an incredibly easy call. It was a no-brainer. He gets bonus points for not micromanaging the Pentagon, like Carter in Eagle Claw and Clinton and Mogadishu (in both cases, limiting the resources usable by the miltary).

    Where he loses points is in taking 16 hours to make the “tough call,” gloating and bragging over making the “tough call,” and letting his campaign and surrogates talk how Romney wouldn’t have had the balls to make the “tough call.”

    Oh, and how his administration immediately started spinning and coming out with different versions of how the raid went down, constantly rewriting just what happened, and blowing the ID of the team involved and the Commanding Officer’s name — all rookie mistakes.

    The point of rookie mistakes is that rookies make them as part of learning how not to be a rookie. So far, though, they can’t seem to learn a damned thing.

  4. Herb says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    “Where he loses points is in taking 16 hours to make the “tough call,” gloating and bragging over making the “tough call,” and letting his campaign and surrogates talk how Romney wouldn’t have had the balls to make the “tough call.””

    If this is the biggest criticism you have, you don’t have much.

    I mean, listen to yourself. If you’re not criticizing the decision, you’re second-guessing it, all in service of a guy who is saying he’d make the exact same call. How is that NOT a knee-jerk partisan response?

    I think it should be noted that while Obama’s team was planning the Bin Laden raid, the GOP mostly concerned themselves with trying to force a default on government debt and getting access to the long-form birth certificate.

    I distinctly remember Obama making fun of Donald “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” Trump to his face at last year’s “nerd prom,” never ONCE even hinting that not only had Bin Laden been found, but SEALs were en route to take him out. Do you?

  5. Mitt Romney, asked if he would have given the order to go after Osama bin Laden, as President Obama’s new video and his campaign aides have suggested he wouldn’t have done, per POLITICO’s Ginger Gibson: “Of course, even Jimmy Carter would have given that order.”

    Mitt Romney would never have had the opportunity to give the order since he wasn’t concerned about finding bin Laden, just as Bush wasn’t concerned about him and had closed the group that was supposed to be looking for him.

  6. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Herb: …none of which addresses two key points: 1) It took Obama 16 hours to make that “tough call,” and 2) the administration started spinning the story right from the outset, and took a couple of weeks to “finalize” their story, after constantly rewriting and revising and correcting their accounts.

    In other words, they lied about it and kept lying as each lie was caught out. And to this day, we aren’t quite certain which version of their account is the accurate one.

  7. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Herb: I distinctly remember Obama making fun of Donald “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” Trump to his face at last year’s “nerd prom,” never ONCE even hinting that not only had Bin Laden been found, but SEALs were en route to take him out. Do you?

    And that’s even dumber. Not even Obama would start bragging about his great success before it happened, when it could still blow up in his face (as Joe Biden predicted it would).

    And thanks for reminding everyone about the “Nerd Prom.” Remember how “courageous” Stephen Colbert was when he ripped Bush to his face at one of the prior ones? The former point of the “nerd prom” was for the president to show up and be roasted, then dish it back at the end. Now, the press and the president team up to attack his political rivals — who don’t ever get a chance to answer back. The only one who seemed to remember it this year was Kimmel.

  8. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Timothy Watson: Mitt Romney would never have had the opportunity to give the order since he wasn’t concerned about finding bin Laden, just as Bush wasn’t concerned about him and had closed the group that was supposed to be looking for him.

    So answer me this: if Bin Laden was so important, wouldn’t it have been even better to get him alive if possible? Why were the SEALs sent in with orders to kill him?

  9. Herb says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    1) It took Obama 16 hours to make that “tough call,”

    So? Would you prefer he made the call sooner….or later? And by which arbitrary measure did you calculate the appropriate time spent contemplating such a thing?

    2) the administration started spinning the story right from the outset

    Well….I guess I’m not so naive to think that we’d get an immediate and accurate account of a covert military mission.

    Not even Obama would start bragging about his great success before it happened

    You missed the point….this isn’t about Obama bragging.

    It’s about the fundamental unseriousness of the GOP’s anti-Obama critique, perpetuated here with the “he took 16 hours to make the call!” nonsense.

  10. Hey Norm says:

    “…crucifixion would be too good for that uppity Muslim halfbreed…”

    James, Doug, whomever…
    This comment is beyond the pale, has no place on OTB, and the commenter should be banned immediately.
    No if’s, and’s or but’s.

  11. OzakHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian: I will let the estimable Robert Farley explain it for you:

    1. The mission that killed bin Laden was risky in operational terms, in international political terms, and probably in domestic political terms. It’s not quite right to say that the failure of Eagle Claw cost Carter the 1980 election, but it surely didn’t help. Moreover, Obama could opted for the less risky, more destructive, less certain bombing attack.
    2. There is no guarantee whatsoever that Republicans would have given Obama a pass on the failure of the mission to net bin Laden, or if it had resulted in substantial U.S. casualties. 2011 ain’t 1980; indeed, I’d have been extremely surprised if the failure of a bin Laden mission didn’t become central to alterna-Romney’s national security pitch.
    3. Romney accepted this risk in 2007 when he implied that getting bin Laden wasn’t a priority. Romney may have even been right (although killing or capturing bin Laden was clearly worth some risk), but in saying so he clearly put himself in foreseeable political jeopardy. As it turned out, the mission could be accomplished at substantially less cost than Romney suggested, which is also a problem.
    4. This is what it looks like when Democrats go for the jugular. It’s hardly barbaric for the campaign to trumpet the President’s role in killing a man suspected of the mass murder of Americans.

  12. mattb says:

    @Hey Norm:
    Keep your pants on. Jenos went out of his way to mark it as sarcasm/an attempt at humor.

    Was it necessarily funny?
    No… maybe it was to Jenos (though I suspect for him it was more about proving a point).

    But ban worthy? No it wasn’t that either.

    Save the outrage for something that really deserves it.

  13. Pug says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    wouldn’t it have been even better to get him alive if possible? Why were the SEALs sent in with orders to kill him?

    No, it wouldn’t have been even better to take Bin Laden alive.

    When SEAL Team Six goes after somebody they are not sent to take prisoners. They are there to kill somebody and get out.

    Any more questions?

  14. Hey Norm says:

    @ MattB…
    That was humor? Sarcasm?
    Keep in mind that racist jokes aren’t told by people who aren’t racists.

  15. mattb says:

    @Hey Norm: He clearly marked it as humor. It’s not worth getting into the speculation of how it reflects the contents of his soul.

    It was an attempt at a joke. It should be left up to readers if it was funny or not. If you don’t like it, or found it unhelpful, mark it down.

    Beyond that, let it rest, because this route of attack really doesn’t make you look good. Constant requests to ban an individual only make it appear as if you are trying to chill their speech.

  16. mattb says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    So answer me this: if Bin Laden was so important, wouldn’t it have been even better to get him alive if possible? Why were the SEALs sent in with orders to kill him?

    Good god, really? I mean GWB made it pretty clear that he wasn’t interested in bringing in Bin Laden alive. Most conservatives only picked up this “take ’em alive” meme only after Bin Laden was successfully killed.

    Further, I think you were the one giving Obama credit for letting the military do it’s job. Telling the Seal Team that they needed to bring Bin Laden back alive would have been a fundamental interference with the normal operation of that team.

    And, be honest for a moment, and imagine what the reaction would have been if they had tried to take him alive and the mission went south. He would have been crucified, especially by people like you.

  17. Herb says:

    @Hey Norm: Yeah, it was sarcasm. While sarcasm can be humorous, it need not be so.

    Put it to a vote, I’d say the comment was stupid and juvenile, but ban worthy? Nah…..

  18. jukeboxgrad says:

    anjin-san:

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized Democrat Barack Obama on Friday for vowing to strike al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan if necessary

    This is the heart of the matter. And I’m going to mention again that many other Republican leaders (e.g., McCain and Limbaugh) made similar statements mocking Obama. Which they now hope no one can remember.

    Like our resident amnesiac, Jenos, who describes this as “an incredibly easy call” even though leading Republicans described the plan as “naive” and “insanity.”

  19. @Jenos Idanian: Thanks for proving how seriously you take race and racism.

    I would further point out that there was absolutely no reason to bring any of that into this discussion.

    And lastly: despite the high esteem in which you hold your alleged comedy skills, can I assure you that you are not succeeding. Please refrain from future attempts at this kind of stuff or I will delete the comment. I am leaving this one up because I think it actually illustrates almost everything wrong with the way you approach politics.

    1. It is childish.

    2. It takes a serious issue and treats it as a cheap attempt to score points.

    3. You make a series of talk radioesque talking point claims about an event (16 hours!).

    If you want to be taken seriously, learn to be serious.

  20. al-Ameda says:

    Mitt Romney, asked if he would have given the order to go after Osama bin Laden, as President Obama’s new video and his campaign aides have suggested he wouldn’t have done, per POLITICO’s Ginger Gibson: “Of course, even Jimmy Carter would have given that order.”

    … and Mitt Romney probably blamed the military forces ,and not President Carter, when Operation Egal Claw failed. Whatever.

    Romney is becoming a caricature of himself – not a good sign.

  21. mattb says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Cue Jenos outrage at being singled out.

  22. Tsar Nicholas says:

    This blog post is an example of paralysis by analysis.

    If we don’t parse Romney’s comment into its constituent molecules the underlying meaning becomes clear: That giving that order under the then-existing circumstances was such a no brainer even the poster boy for a failed presidency would have made that call. Romney wasn’t criticizing Obama. He wasn’t even criticizing Carter, at least not in the literal sense. It was a colloquial political reference, not a literal historical reference. Romney merely is saying that he would have done the same thing as Obama did. That’s it. That’s all. 1+1 does not = 3.

  23. jukeboxgrad says:

    Romney merely is saying that he would have done the same thing as Obama did.

    Except that when Obama said what he intended to do Romney criticized him. So this latest claim by Mr. Etch-a-Sketch is impressive only to amnesiacs.

  24. @mattb:

    Cue Jenos outrage at being singled out.

    Indeed.

  25. WR says:

    @Hey Norm: My loathing for the troll known as Jenos knows only the bounds of the tiny amount of attention I’m willing to pay him, but this was clearly meant to be a parody of what people who aren’t morons think the Jenos’ of the world think. He’s not calling for a lynching, he’s just a little child screaming for attention. And yes, this site would be better if he’d go away, but I think it would be worse if he were banned.

  26. WR says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “That giving that order under the then-existing circumstances was such a no brainer even the poster boy for a failed presidency would have made that call. ”

    Sure, if “making that call” were all Obama had done. But Obama also created those circumstances by resurrecting the Bin Lade unit and restarting the search that Bush had abandoned and Romney said was a waste of time and money. It’s quite possible that if he’d faced the exact circumstances Romney would have made the same call — but it’s impossible that he ever would have faced those circumstances.

  27. @mattb: It was stated by conservatives for years that it would be better to kill bin Laden than take him alive and have to put him on trial or hold him until he died.

    Not to mention, it would have been a hell of lot less risky to simple drop a couple dozen JDAMs on the compound from a couple B-2s, but instead they sent SEALs in who went through the whole compound and took every piece of paper and electronics they could find.

  28. legion says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Well-said, sir. Far more professional than I would have been – you have the patience of a saint.

  29. anjin-san says:

    Romney merely is saying that he would have done the same thing as Obama did. That’s it.

    So is he lying now, or was he lying then?

    I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours…

  30. Hey Norm says:

    It is so much fun to watch the incompetent hawks of the Bush Administration whine like little babies.
    Bolton:

    “…I think what offends people is that instead of recognizing it as a national triumph and having everybody share in it, that the Obama administration has tried to make it look like the president did everything, including fast-roping out of the helicopter and pulling the trigger…”

    Rumsfeld:

    “…The special operators who have every right to “spike the football” are too professional to do so. The White House might follow their lead…”

    These are the guys that promised to bring OBL to justice and couldn’t. So of course they are blubbering over being made to look like fools.
    Romney made this fair game when he criticised Obama in the ’08 race. He is now eating his words. Tough.

  31. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    @Hey Norm:

    Oh, no, I wouldn’t get to taste all this delicious Schadenfreude if Jenos were barred from commenting here. Besides, I can’t wait for the next round of “spot the new Jay Tea moniker” when he gives this one up. It’s like Where’s Waldo, only everyone’s yellow.

  32. PJ says:

    Jenos needs to eat pie.

  33. Galanti says:

    Like most, I imagine most presidents would have made the call to order the raid. What I did find ballsy was Obama’s insistence that the team be large enough to fight their way out of Pakistan if need be, diplomatic consequences be damned:

  34. anjin-san says:

    How many people in American life have less credibility than Don Rumsfeld? Here are a few choice words about the former SecDef from that noted pro-Obama rag, the Wall St. Journal:

    The failure to find bin Laden was a seminal moment in the history of the war in Afghanistan. And it was a catastrophe. From that moment—the moment he escaped his apparent hideout in Tora Bora and went on to make his sneering speeches and send them out to the world—from that moment everything about the Afghanistan war became unclear, unfocused, murky and confused. The administration in Washington, emboldened by what it called its victory over the Taliban, decided to move on Iraq. Its focus shifted, it took its eye off the ball, and Afghanistan is now what it is.

    You’d think, nearly a decade after the events of Tora Bora, that Mr. Rumsfeld would understand the extent of the error and the breadth of its implications. He does not. Needless to say, Tora Bora was the fault of someone else—Gen. Franks of course, and CIA Director George Tenet.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704005404576177143841656926.html

  35. Scott says:

    @al-Ameda: I’m kind of enjoying the fact that Romney is comparing himself to Jimmy Carter.

  36. Socrates says:

    Actually, Romney’s statement that “even Jimmy Carter” would have ordered the raid to proceed is disgraceful. Contemptible.

    But I do think that is the real Mitt Romney. Cretin.

  37. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I have two regrets about my above comment. First, I forgot to include “Kenyan-born” to acknowledge the Birthers, and second, I didn’t wait for Mr. Party to fully commit to his standard “all conservative Obama critics are motivated by their racism” position. Because of the second error, I apologize to you, our host.

    As for the rest, I will say that I don’t consider Mr. Reynolds or several others worth taking seriously. Some commenters here, I will cheerfully engage in a manner that I believe would meet with your approval — I’ve had some decent discussions with mattb, just to name one. But it’s difficult for me to see such pathetic, false stereotypes as Mr. Party presented.

    If I may, let me rewrite my opening:

    @An Interested Party: Despite the narrative that some would like us to believe, if the bin Laden operation had failed, the GOP would have crucified the President, and would of used that as a major issue in this year’s presidential campaign…seeing as how it was a success, sauce for the goose and all of that…

    Boy, with those insights into alternate universes, you ought to hook up with Mr. Reynolds. You have a wonderful career in science fiction; he could possibly get you an agent.

    That’s a hell of a straw man you just stuffed there. “This didn’t happen, but if it did, this is what the people I don’t like and don’t understand would have done, no question. And we should condemn them for it.”

    (Pick up from “The REALITY is…”)

    No, I’m not asking my original comment to be deleted, edited, or in any way changed. I said it, I stand by it, I made clear what I regret about it. But I took Mr. Joyner’s reprimand as an opportunity to reconsider the matter, and the above is a better statement of my intent.

  38. mantis says:

    As for the rest, I will say that I don’t consider Mr. Reynolds or several others worth taking seriously.

    That’s ok; we don’t take you seriously either. And your recent embrace of Jim Treacher’s style ain’t going to help that at all. The fact that you think he is intelligent or effective speaks volumes.

    Who’s the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?

  39. An Interested Party says:

    @Hey Norm: Being criticized by Bolton and Rumsfeld on foreign policy matters is like being criticized by Richard Nixon on honesty and virtue…

    Besides, I can’t wait for the next round of “spot the new Jay Tea moniker” when he gives this one up.

    You aren’t the only person who has noticed that…

    I didn’t wait for Mr. Party to fully commit to his standard “all conservative Obama critics are motivated by their racism” position.

    You don’t have to resort to bald-faced lying to make your point…and you have the nerve to criticize anyone else about strawmen arguments…please…

    In regard to the subject of this post, Romney’s position is similar to his position on the auto bailouts, only in reverse…in this case, he was against it before he was for it…poor Mittens just can’t make up his mind…

  40. Jenos Idanian says:

    @An Interested Party: You don’t have to resort to bald-faced lying to make your point…and you have the nerve to criticize anyone else about strawmen arguments…please…

    I’m confused. So, I DID wait for you to fully commit to that argument? I was saying that I jumped the gun, reacting to what I expected you to say. I was saying I made an error. If that’s a “bald-faced lie,” then I wasn’t in error?

  41. An Interested Party says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Do try to pay attention, especially to your own words…you wrote…

    I didn’t wait for Mr. Party to fully commit to his standard “all conservative Obama critics are motivated by their racism” position…

    That isn’t my position, standard or otherwise…in that regard, you did indeed lie as well as making an error…hmm…maybe you confused me for someone else around here…you have certainly made that error before…