FLASHBACK: Barack Obama Made the Death of bin Laden All About Himself

(Rex Features via AP Images)

President Trump’s announcement of the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is something Americans should be able to celebrate regardless of political affiliation. However, it seems that in hours following the announcement the left and the media have spent tremendous effort to tarnish the news by questioning why he didn’t inform Democrat leaders in advance and criticizing his language during the announcement. Obama’s CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell had the gall to condemn how President Trump described al-Baghdadi’s death for having a “locker-room feel.”


“You don’t want a locker-room kind of feel to this,” Morell said on CBS’s Face The Nation. “That was the one thing we worked really hard on after the bin Laden raid, is don’t make those kinds of statements, because it does inspire other people.” Retired Adm. James Winnefeld, Obama’s former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added, “It’s about respect for other religions, and if you look back to the bin Laden raid, as much as we detested that man and as much harm as he did to our nation, we treated his body with respect that is due under Islam and this was a little bit tough.”

Cry me a river.

But I do think there’s something about Trump’s language compared Obama’s that is worth noting. In fact, after reviewing both Trump’s statement announcing the death of al-Baghdadi and Obama’s statement announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, there was a huge difference, but it had nothing to do with respect for the dead.

Barack Obama’s statement was carefully crafted to paint a narrative that made him a central figure of the events leading up to bin Laden’s death. Obama’s goal was to make him synonymous with the death of bin Laden the year before he would face the voters again. He mentioned himself several times: “Tonight, I can report… I directed Leon Panetta… I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden… I met repeatedly with my national security team… I determined that we had enough intelligence…” It was all about him and what he did. He nearly broke his arm patting himself on the back and taking credit for the raid.


President Trump, however, took a different approach. Unlike Obama, who mentioned himself right away, Trump started off his announcement like this:

Last night, the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. He was the founder and leader of ISIS, the most ruthless and violent terror organization in the World. The United States has been searching for Baghdadi for many years.  Capturing or killing Baghdadi has been the top national security priority of my Administration.  U.S. Special Operations forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid into Northwestern Syria to accomplish this mission.

The word “I” does occur six times in Trump’s prepared remarks, but none of those instances involved taking credit for something. In fact, five of those times he was thanking people and countries that took part in or assisted with the raid.

Trump does deserve credit for a change in strategy that resulted in ISIS losing instead of gaining ground, and bringing them to near annihilation, and he acknowledged this one time when he said, “At my direction, as Commander-in-Chief, the United States obliterated his ‘caliphate’ in March of this year.” But this doesn’t even come close to Obama’s self-aggrandizing narrative about bin Laden’s death. In fact, Obama would continue to push this narrative alongside false claims that al Qaeda was on the verge of defeat (even as intelligence reports were telling him they were expanding) while he ran for reelection. Much of the story Obama pushed would later be contradicted by CIA director Leon Panetta, who revealed that Navy SEALs, not Obama, made the final decision to kill bin Laden, and that Obama was not in the Situation Room constantly monitoring the situation, but elsewhere playing cards at various times. The infamous photo from the Situation Room that claimed to show Obama, Biden, and others monitoring the bin Laden raid in real-time was, in fact, staged.


Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, revealed there was a 25 minute blackout during which the live feed from cameras mounted on the helmets of the US special forces was cut off.

A photograph released by the White House appeared to show President Barack Obama and his aides in the situation room watching the action as it unfolded. In fact they had little knowledge of what was happening in the compound.

In an interview with PBS, Mr Panetta said: “Once those teams went into the compound I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes where we really didn’t know just exactly what was going on. And there were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information.

“We had some observation of the approach there, but we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the compound.”

Mr Panetta also told the network that the US Navy Seals, rather than Mr Obama, made the final decision to kill bin Laden.

 “The authority here was to kill bin Laden. And obviously, under the rules of engagement, if he had in fact thrown up his hands, surrendered and didn’t appear to be representing any kind of threat, then they were to capture him. But they had full authority to kill him,” Panetta explained. Obama didn’t even know the mission was successful until afterward. But, Obama spent the next year and a half campaigning as the mastermind behind bin Laden’s death and taking credit for it. Ryan Zinke, a former commander in the U.S. Navy who led a SEAL Team 6 assault unit, accused Obama of exploiting bin Laden’s death in order to get reelected. “The President and his administration are positioning him as a war president using the SEALs as ammunition. It was predictable.” Obama even had a campaign ad about the bin Laden raid, which resulted in bipartisan criticism.

Obama approached bin Laden’s death as a political event that would help him get reelected, and constructed a narrative that made him a central figure in the events leading up to and during the raid, even though he wasn’t so much.  President Trump didn’t attempt to make al-Baghdadi’s death about him, but as a victory for the United States.
I think this cartoon says it all:



Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis


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