Rove took issue with Hanks’ assertion in the video that Obama’s order to kill Osama bin Laden showed the “ultimate test of leadership”:
As for the killing of Osama bin Laden, Mr. Obama did what virtually any commander in chief would have done in the same situation. Even President Bill Clinton says in the film “that’s the call I would have made.” For this to be portrayed as the epic achievement of the first term tells you how bare the White House cupboards are.
As Obama’s former top adviser David Axelrod pointed out on Twitter today, Rove completely mischaracterized Clinton’s quote from the film. The former president actually said of the bin Laden raid: “When I saw what had happened, I thought to myself, I hope that is the call I would have made.”
And former Defense Secretary Robert Gates — himself a Republican who has served numerous presidents in security related roles — doesn’t quite see it the same way as the former president’s chief political operative. “I’ve worked for a lot of these guys,” Gates said on 60 Minutes last year, “and this is one of the most courageous calls — decisions — that I think I’ve ever seen a president make.”
So why this blatant dishonesty from Rove? Given the difficulty with which to assign any political liability to the president for ordering the death of history’s most notorious terrorist, the Republicans’ strategy in this campaign season has been to either downplay Obama’s role in nabbing bin Laden or to pretend that he didn’t have anything to do with it.
But Rove is also probably trying to run interference. Rove said Obama “did what virtually any commander in chief would have done” in ordering the bin Laden raid — virtually any commander-in-chief that is, except his former boss President Bush. Bush famously said of bin Laden in 2002: “I really just don’t spend that much time on him” and in 2006, he reportedly said the al Qaeda leader was “not a top priority use of American resources.” In 2005, Bush shut down the CIA unit that was dedicated to finding bin Laden’s whereabouts and the New York Times reported that Bush and then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld abandoned a plan to capture senior al Qaeda members in early 2005 because they “decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan.”
So it turns out that “virtually” everything in Rove’s op-ed about Obama, Clinton and bin Laden isn’t true.