When Zakaria asked about the question of credit for the success of the OBL mission, Rice tried to position it as an American success that both Presidents in this war share. While the leads were developed under George Bush, Rice notes that Barack Obama faced tough decisions in making the call for a SEAL operation rather than a long-range missile attack on the compound:
ZAKARIA: We’re hearing some Republicans, people like Rush Limbaugh say Obama really doesn’t deserve much credit for this. You know – the operation was a routine operation. You’ve been in the White House, do you think that the President at key moments had to make difficult calls, whether to use a drone, whether to use special operations?
RICE: I’ve been in the White House, and I’ve seen a president make difficult decisions. And there were difficult decisions in this. What that – what President Obama has done, indeed it was a – it was a brave decision. Now it is absolutely the case that the United States of America has been fighting this war for at least ten years, and really a bit longer. And so this is a victory across presidencies. It’s a – it’s a victory for having learned more how to fight the counter terrorism fight. But there’s no doubt that as President Bush had to make some very, very hard calls that frankly helped to set this up, President Obama had to make some very difficult calls to bring it to conclusion.
Rice has this right. While we can rightly note with some amusement the lockstep use of the catchphrase “gutsy call” by Democrats attempting to make this all about Obama, it wasn’t an easy call to make. Had it gone wrong, Obama would have come under tremendous criticism for not taking the safer route of simply wiping the compound off the map with long-range airstrikes. The frustration comes from the fact that the current administration has acted rather gracelessly in failing to acknowledge the tough calls made by its preceding administration — including policies opposed by Senator and then Candidate Obama — that provided the basis for the success of this mission. That is especially true of the operation of Guantanamo Bay, where the lead was first developed.