Earlier this month, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who served in both the Bush and Obama administrations, said President Obama’s decision to order the raid that killed Osama bin Laden “gutsy,” saying that “people don’t realize” what a tough call it was and not everyone would have made the same decision.
In an interview that aired last night, PBS’s Charlie Rose, noting what Gates had said, asked his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld if he agreed that it was a “gutsy” call. “I don’t,” a defiant Rumsfeld quickly shot back, adding that he would have done the same thing. “It seems to me that it is a 15-minute decision and the first 14 are for coffee,” he said. Rumsfeld then, just like President Bush had done, credited himself for the raid’s success:
RUMSFELD: You can’t imagine the difference in competence and capability and the investment we made and the talent of these people [U.S. special operations forces]. We doubled their authorities, we’ve improved their equipment, we’ve increased their numbers. They have gotten better and better and better, they’re the finest warriors on the face of the earth. [...]
We took the investment that the Obama administration benefited from. The capabilities they have were developed during their predecessors and each President –
ROSE: The predecessor meaning the Bush administration you served?
RUMSFELD: And, yes exactly.
Watch the clip:
The Obama-ordering-the-bin-Laden-raid-was-no-big-deal meme is standard fare for former Bush administration officials. Karl Rove said recently that it wasn’t an “epic achievement” despite the fact that he called it a “very tough decision” just one day after Obama announced the raid.
Rumsfeld says Obama’s decision was a no-brainer. But what would the former defense secretary have recommended? “I would have recommended what the President decided,” he told Rose last night. But would he have? The New York Times reported in 2007 that “[a] secret military operation in early 2005 to capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas was aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky.” Which top Bush official called off the raid? Donald Rumsfeld.