How Presidents conduct themselves in a time of war and what they say about their military tells much about the character of the person.
One year ago Navy Seals entered the home of Osama bin Laden and killed him. During the past week Barack Obama has tried to politicize the killing of Osama bin Laden, giving himself credit for the success of the operation and stating bluntly his opinion that Mitt Romney would not have had the courage to do the same thing.
President Obama culminated his political endeavors with a surprise speech from Afghanistan on the anniversary of the apprehension and killing of Osama bin Laden. This was the first time Obama had publically mentioned the war in Afghanistan in a year.
A year ago President Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden. Obama’s speech was laced with references to himself and none to President George W. Bush and Bush’s actions that let to the finding of Osama. Our military were mentioned and credited by Obama but almost as an afterthought. The following is an excerpt from that speech,
“And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.
Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability.”
Compare this to an excerpt from the much shorter speech of President George W. Bush after and apprehension of Saddam Hussein. Bush’s emphasis was to the men and women in our Armed Forces.
“The success of yesterday's mission is a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq. The operation was based on the superb work of intelligence analysts who found the dictator's footprints in a vast country. The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force. Our servicemen and women and our coalition allies have faced many dangers in the hunt for members of the fallen regime, and in their effort to bring hope and freedom to the Iraqi people. Their work continues, and so do the risks. Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our Armed Forces and I congratulate them.”
Each leader is different. The leader who takes credit for the work of those who preceded him and even for the bravery and accomplishment of his military might be considered by some to be self-absorbed and disconnected. The leader who blames all possible problems on those who served before him might be considered to be at least a bit narcissistic, which does not portend for strong leadership or good outcomes.
The most difficult of times require the best of leaders.