Moments ago, speaking at the retirement ceremony for Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, President Obama said American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki took the lead in “planning efforts to murder innocent Americans” as head of external operations for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Obama said it was a “major blow” to al Qaeda.
Former Bush U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, however, tried his hardest to downplay the significance of the Obama administration’s killing of Al-Awlaki in Yemen today, telling Fox News that we shouldn’t “read more into it than there is”:
BOLTON: At the same time, I think it’s important as individual Al Qaeda figures and other terrorists are killed that we not read more into it than there is. Consider this analogy if you were around in the 1920s and somebody said, my God, Vladimir Lenin is dead. The Bolsheviks will never recover from this. [...]
So while Al-Awlaki death is significant, I would not read cosmic consequences into it.
Bolton’s analogy is rather flawed, as Lenin died of natural causes after a period of of semi-retirement from politics, while Al-Awlaki was at the height of his power. Al-Awlaki had a hand in almost all of the high-profile terror attempts in recent years — he helped recruit Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “underwear bomber,” exchanged emails with Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan, communicated with failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, and directed the attempted bombing of cargo planes last year.
But as NBC News’ First Read noted this morning, “no president” in over 20 years “has had more foreign-policy successes happen under his watch than President Obama.” Yet, he’s “getting almost no credit from the American public.” Despite the killing of Osama Bin Laden and nearly two dozen other top terrorist, the dismantling of Al Qaeda, and the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi polls show the public still gives Republicans the edge on combating terrorism. That after President Bush failed to capture Bin Laden or even pursue him with much alacrity.
This is likely because conservative media personalities and Republican lawmakers consistently mislead the public on Obama’s foreign policy, suggesting he is weak on terror and maligning his stance as “leading from behind.” There has never been any basis in reality to their attacks, and even less so after the killing of Al-Awlaki. But Bolton’s performance on Fox this morning suggests that even this latest incident won’t make conservatives acknowledge reality.