When It Comes to Defeating Terrorists, Take the Win

Back in 2011, when word spread across the news media that Osama bin Laden had finally been brought to justice, I remember a friend (a fellow Republican) turning to me and saying, “Obama’s going to get credit for this, isn’t he?”

My answer to that friend was, “So?”

I wasn’t interested in the political fallout. I was just glad that the leader of Al-Qaeda — the man primarily responsible for the deaths of thousands of people on 9/11 — had answered for his crimes, and was no longer around to take more innocent lives. It was a great day for America, regardless of one’s political leanings.

I did understand where my friend was coming from, however. As I wrote in a piece in 2012, where I defended Obama’s use of a campaign video bragging up his leadership role in the successful raid on the Bin Laden compound, there was some glaring irony tied to that part of the president’s legacy:

It was the controversial intelligence and interrogation techniques put in place by the Bush administration that ultimately led the CIA to Bin Laden. These were the very techniques that Obama adamantly condemned while he ran for the presidency. For nearly four years, the Obama administration has routinely blamed the poor state of the country on a situation he inherited from Bush. Yet, he’s now running on one of the very few successes he’s enjoyed as president – one that came to fruition from policies he also inherited from Bush.

Still, I made it clear that, in addition to our military and intelligence agencies, Obama absolutely deserved credit…even if any other president in that same position would have made the same call. I also had no problem with Obama touting his leadership on the matter. After all, if the operation at that Pakistani compound (which came with undeniable military and diplomatic risks) had failed, Obama would have received full blame for the failure.

I feel the same way about this week’s successful operation that took out ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was a great day for America, and everyone involved deserves credit for the neutralization of this murderer, torturer, and rapist.

This includes our troops who bravely carried out the operation. It also includes Kurdish officials who reportedly provided most of the intel for the operation, and continued doing so even after Trump’s surprise withdrawal announcement that opened up the Syrian Kurds to a deadly Turkish offensive. Notably, that same move by our president reportedly complicated the jobs of the C.I.A and Pentagon as well, forcing them to speed up their planning of the raid before they would lose their ability to make calls from the ground. So those organizations certainly deserve a lot of credit for still pulling it off. And lastly, Trump deserves credit for making the call to launch the raid.

But because we live in hyper-partisan times, and because this was a political (not just a strategic) win for our president, some folks took a stunningly different view of the situation — one that included framing the newly deceased terrorist as an individual with some notably redeeming qualities.

No, I’m not joking.

The Washington Post’s obituary for al-Baghdadi was given this headline: “Austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State dies at 48.”

Austere religious scholar? This made me want to go back and check if the Post headlined Charles Manson’s obituary with “Renowned singer-songwriter.”

Speaking of the Washington Post, one of their columnists, Max Boot (who has renounced just about every political position he held prior to the Trump era), was so bothered by Trump’s description of al-Baghdadi’s final seconds, that he felt compelled to laud the terrorist’s courage:

The Washington Post’s Max Boot on Twitter (10/28/2019)

Now, to be fair, Boot’s first sentence had some validity. President Trump routinely uses similar verbiage (depicting made-up behavior) in an attempt to emasculate even his domestic political opponents. For Trump to extend such imagery to a dead terrorist leader isn’t particularly surprising, especially considering that it’s been common practice over the years, spanning different administrations, to demoralize America’s enemies in this fashion.

For example, some may recall that under Obama, John Brennan falsely claimed that Osama bin Laden had tried to use one of his wives as a human shield during the Pakistan raid.

Boot went off the rails, however, when he channeled his frustration with Trump’s fabrications into a defense of the terrorist leader. “Whimpering and crying” or not, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed himself and three children to avoid his own capture. I’m not sure which definition of courage Boot thought that met.

No one’s under any obligation to give credit to Trump, of course — just like Trump wasn’t under any obligation to give President Obama any credit for taking out Bin Laden:

You don’t even have to believe that Trump did something that any other president wouldn’t have, or that his foreign policy decisions, taken as a whole, have been sound (in my view, he’s made several mistakes).

But there are some things that should transcend politics. And if we can’t agree that dealing a major blow to a terrorist organization is unequivocally one of them, our country’s in worse shape than I thought.

Megyn Kelly, on John A. Daly’s new novel, Safeguard.

Why Media Bias Matters

As you may know, Bill O’Reilly doesn’t have much faith in what passes for the mainstream media.  The other night, in a conversation with me on The Factor, he said this:

“Folks know that the media is dishonest, that the media now is not in the business to report the news anymore. They’re there to advance an ideological agenda.  So, if the folks know it, all the polls say they know it, that means that the press is not going to have any real influence on the elections this time around.”  Then he asked what I thought.

I said even liberals know the press has an agenda, that it takes sides, and that while coverage favoring President Obama might influence less sophisticated voters, the influence would be minor and would not affect the outcome of the election.

That prompted a blog from somebody named Erik Wemple who writes under the banner of the Washington Post.  “So if the impact of media bias is so trivial, why do these guys [O’Reilly and me] harp on it each week?” he asked.

You might think that someone who writes for an important news organization like the Washington Post would understand why media bias is important.  Alas, he doesn’t.

First, Bill and I don’t “harp” on the subject of media bias.  We discuss it.  A small point, perhaps, but not to me.  Second, I have never said that media bias is “trivial.”  That’s how Wemple characterizes it hoping we’ll drop the subject and move on to something less threatening.  Don’t hold your breath, Erik.

Here’s why media bias is important, even though it may not affect the next – or the last, or possibly any – presidential election:  In a free country we have to have a free press.  Everybody knows that.  But you can’t have a free country forever if you don’t also have a fair press.

In a free country, people depend on the media for their information about government and other powerful institutions.  If the press sounds the alarm about some danger, people have to pay attention.  But if they have lost confidence in the press – because of its biases – then there’s a good chance we’ll ignore the warning.  And that could be dangerous.

While I was writing A Slobbering Love Affair, my 2009 book about the media’s crush on Barack Obama, I talked to political analyst Pat Caddell, and asked for his thoughts about the mainstream media.

They were more biased than ever, he said, before launching into a bit of history to put the current mess into perspective.  “There is one institution in America which has no checks and balances,” he told me.  “And that is the press.  And there was a reason for that.  It wasn’t that the Founding Fathers loved the press.  It was because the press was supposed to protect the country.  That’s why Jefferson said, ‘I would much rather have newspapers without a government than a government without newspapers.’

“But [when the media] leave the ramparts and become a partisan outrider for one party or the other or one candidate or the other; essentially [deciding] who should be president and who should not be president; what truth people should know and what truth they should not know; then what they become, what they constitute, is a threat to democracy.”

Imagine, Caddell told me, that one day a demagogue comes along and decides to run for president.  Imagine that he “gets up at the start of his campaign and says, ‘I want you to see the press.  They are the enemy of the American people.  They will do everything they can to stop me because they want to stop you.’  And the American people will believe it.  What if this is the most dangerous man that ever came along?  Nobody will care what the press says.”

That, Erik Wemple of the Washington Post, is why bias in the media matters.