Just days before President Obama was inaugurated, Fox News host Sean Hannity launched into the president-elect for supposedly “putting our national security at risk” by “flip-flop[ing]” on his pledge to go after Osama bin Laden. Accusing Obama of abandoning President Bush’s efforts in hunting down the Al Qaeda leader, Hannity exclaimed, “Mr. Obama’s change of heart is jaw dropping,” saying Obama was “softening his stance” on hunting down the terrorist. Watch it:
Needless to say, Obama did not relent in going after Bin Laden, and may have even doubled down on his predecessor’s effort. In 2006, conservative Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes told Hannity’s Fox News that in a recent meeting with Bush, the president had told him “bin Laden doesn’t fit with the administration’s strategy for combating terrorism.” Barnes said Bush told him that capturing bin Laden is “not a top priority use of American resources.”
And just six months after 9/11, Bush suggested in a press conference that Bin Laden was not a top priority for his administration. Asked whether Bush thought capturing Bin Laden was important, Bush scolded those who cared about Bin Laden for not “understand[ing] the scope of the mission” because Bin Laden was just “one person,” whom Bush said, “I really just don’t spend that much time on”:
Who knows if he’s hiding in some cave or not. We haven’t heard from him in a long time. The idea of focusing on one person really indicates to me people don’t understand the scope of the mission. Terror is bigger than one person. He’s just a person who’s been marginalized. … I don’t know where he is. I really just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.
Towards the end of his presidency, Bush seemed to acknowledge that he would never get Bin Laden, saying, “He’ll be gotten by a president,” without specifying which one.
Now, Obama has fulfilled his campaign promise to capture the terrorist leader, so did Fox News give credit where is due? This morning, Fox and Friends approvingly played a clip of Bush from shortly after 9/11, saying, “President George W. Bush promised to the nation that Osama bin Laden would be caught any way possible.” “We did finally get him,” host Brian Kilmeade said after the clip.
In what is likely to become a chorus on the right, the conservative Heritage Foundation’s president wrote this morning that “Bin Laden’s elimination vindicates U.S. strategy in the region, started under President George W. Bush.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) issued a statement praising Bush, writing, “I commend President Obama who has followed the vigilance of President Bush in bringing Bin Laden to justice.”