Despite Joe Scarborough’s Smear, Liberals Voted Solidly for Obama After He Promised, ‘We Will Kill bin Laden’

Video from second presidential debate in 2008, in which candidate Obama promises, “We will kill Osama bin Laden.” See transcript below.

On Monday, Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC’s three-hour GOP spin-a-thon, “Morning Joe,” used the occasion of the killing of Osama bin Laden at the direction of Pres. Obama to smear the patriotism of liberal Americans:

SCARBOROUGH: Here, you know, I think Republicans should stand up and certainly salute Barack Obama for making some — again, for making some very tough choices that his own base did not want him to make. That takes courage, that takes leadership, and we saw the results of that courage and leadership saying no to his own base yesterday.[…]

[These are] decisions that he probably did not believe as a candidate he didn’t think he’d have to make…Going against his own ideological leanings to do what he believes he has to do.

Of course, Scarborough offered no evidence that American progressives opposed killing the world’s most-wanted terrorist — he couldn’t, because none exists. He was simply pushing the same old GOP B.S. that Democrats — whose party led the nation during World War II — are soft on security and defense.

Also on Monday, Andrew Sullivan, a center-right independent, published a round-up of snippets of opinion from civil libertarians and liberals about the death of bin Laden. While there was some criticism about the riskiness of the action — that it could lead to a rise in blood-thirsty nationalism at home, for example — no one in Sully’s representative sample regretted the fact that bin Laden’s life had not been spared. Among those Andrew cited, Digby nailed it, as usual:

The US is under threat, to be sure. But it’s the threat of a bunch of paranoid opportunists convincing an entire generation that a handful of suicidal religious fanatics are so dangerous that the most powerful nation on the planet must immediately jettison its fundamental values. If killing bin Laden could change that, I’d be celebrating too.

Scarborough is entitled to his opinions — even if they are just regurge from the GOP noise machine — but, as the saying goes, he is not entitled to his own facts. His smear against liberals was wrapped in an easily disprovable lie: “[These are] decisions that he probably did not believe as a candidate he didn’t think he’d have to make” Scarborough said, “going against his own ideological leanings to do what he believes he has to do.”

What Scarborough feigns seems to have forgotten is that, during the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Obama repeatedly promised that, as president, he would seek out and kill Osama bin Laden. In fact, as a result of bin Laden’s death on Tuesday, non-partisan Politifact has added the killing to its list of campaign promises kept by Pres. Obama:

During the 2008 campaign, then candidate Barack Obama pledged several times that he would act to capture or kill terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. Back then, his political rivals criticized him for saying he’d do it with or without Pakistan’s help.

Obama made one of his earliest and most formal statements in a major policy speech on Aug. 1, 2007. Obama savaged the war in Iraq as a misguided effort and said the United States needed to turn its attention to fighting terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan…

Back then, Obama’s rivals for the presidency criticized his remarks as naive, saying that direct, public criticism of Musharraf was unwise. In other attacks, his rivals distorted Obama’s position to say he wanted to bomb Pakistan, claims we rated Pants on Fire.

Obama stuck by his position to go after bin Laden in Pakistan. “I think that if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights, and we’ve exhausted all other options, we should take him out before he plans to kill another 3,000 Americans. I think that’s common sense,” Obama said.

Scarborough also conveniently forgot the second presidential debate — the one in Nashville in October 2008 — in which Obama issued the threat against bin Laden before a national audience:

OBAMA: And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaida. That has to be our biggest national security priority.

The plain fact is liberals were fully informed about Obama’s position on killing bin Laden when they voted for him in November 2008 — an election he won handily, 52.9 percent to 45.7 percent, with the solid support of liberals.

According to exit polls, 89 percent of self-described liberals voted for Obama, while 10 percent voted for McCain-Palin and 1 percent voted for “other” or gave no answer. (By comparison, 20 percent of self-described conservatives voted for Obama-Biden.)

It’s possible that the 10 percent of liberals who voted against Obama did so because they opposed killing bin Laden for some reason, but, even if that were true, they could hardly be considered his “base.”


Transcript of video from the second presidential debate in 2008:

BROKAW: Senator McCain, thank you very much.

Next question for Senator Obama, it comes from the F section and is from Katie Hamm (ph). Katie?

QUESTION: Should the United States respect Pakistani sovereignty and not pursue al Qaeda terrorists who maintain bases there, or should we ignore their borders and pursue our enemies like we did in Cambodia during the Vietnam War?

OBAMA: Katie, it’s a terrific question and we have a difficult situation in Pakistan. I believe that part of the reason we have a difficult situation is because we made a bad judgment going into Iraq in the first place when we hadn’t finished the job of hunting down bin Laden and crushing al Qaeda.

So what happened was we got distracted, we diverted resources, and ultimately bin Laden escaped, set up base camps in the mountains of Pakistan in the northwest provinces there.

They are now raiding our troops in Afghanistan, destabilizing the situation. They’re stronger now than at any time since 2001. And that’s why I think it’s so important for us to reverse course, because that’s the central front on terrorism.

They are plotting to kill Americans right now. As Secretary Gates, the defense secretary, said, the war against terrorism began in that region and that’s where it will end. So part of the reason I think it’s so important for us to end the war in Iraq is to be able to get more troops into Afghanistan, put more pressure on the Afghan government to do what it needs to do, eliminate some of the drug trafficking that’s funding terrorism.

But I do believe that we have to change our policies with Pakistan. We can’t coddle, as we did, a dictator, give him billions of dollars and then he’s making peace treaties with the Taliban and militants.

OBAMA: What I’ve said is we’re going to encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our nonmilitary aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants.

And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaida. That has to be our biggest national security priority.

BROKAW: Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: Well, Katie (ph), thank you.

You know, my hero is a guy named Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt used to say walk softly — talk softly, but carry a big stick. Senator Obama likes to talk loudly.

In fact, he said he wants to announce that he’s going to attack Pakistan. Remarkable.

You know, if you are a country and you’re trying to gain the support of another country, then you want to do everything you can that they would act in a cooperative fashion.

When you announce that you’re going to launch an attack into another country, it’s pretty obvious that you have the effect that it had in Pakistan: It turns public opinion against us.

Now, let me just go back with you very briefly. We drove the Russians out with — the Afghan freedom fighters drove the Russians out of Afghanistan, and then we made a most serious mistake. We washed our hands of Afghanistan. The Taliban came back in, Al Qaida, we then had the situation that required us to conduct the Afghan war.

Now, our relations with Pakistan are critical, because the border areas are being used as safe havens by the Taliban and Al Qaida and other extremist organizations, and we have to get their support.

Now, General Petraeus had a strategy, the same strategy — very, very different, because of the conditions and the situation — but the same fundamental strategy that succeeded in Iraq. And that is to get the support of the people.

We need to help the Pakistani government go into Waziristan, where I visited, a very rough country, and — and get the support of the people, and get them to work with us and turn against the cruel Taliban and others.

And by working and coordinating our efforts together, not threatening to attack them, but working with them, and where necessary use force, but talk softly, but carry a big stick.

OBAMA: Tom, just a…

BROKAW: Senator McCain…

OBAMA: … just a quick follow-up on this. I think…

MCCAIN: If we’re going to have follow-ups, then I will want follow-ups, as well.

BROKAW: No, I know. So but I think we get at it…

MCCAIN: It’d be fine with me. It’d be fine with me.

BROKAW: … if I can, with this question.

OBAMA: Then let’s have one.

BROKAW: All right, let’s have a follow-up.

MCCAIN: It’d be fine with me.

OBAMA: Just — just — just a quick follow-up, because I think — I think this is important.

BROKAW: I’m just the hired help here, so, I mean…


OBAMA: You’re doing a great job, Tom.

Look, I — I want to be very clear about what I said. Nobody called for the invasion of Pakistan. Senator McCain continues to repeat this.

What I said was the same thing that the audience here today heard me say, which is, if Pakistan is unable or unwilling to hunt down bin Laden and take him out, then we should.

Now, that I think has to be our policy, because they are threatening to kill more Americans.

Now, Senator McCain suggests that somehow, you know, I’m green behind the ears and, you know, I’m just spouting off, and he’s somber and responsible.

MCCAIN: Thank you very much.

OBAMA: Senator McCain, this is the guy who sang, “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” who called for the annihilation of North Korea. That I don’t think is an example of “speaking softly.”

This is the person who, after we had — we hadn’t even finished Afghanistan, where he said, “Next up, Baghdad.”

So I agree that we have to speak responsibly and we have to act responsibly. And the reason Pakistan — the popular opinion of America had diminished in Pakistan was because we were supporting a dictator, Musharraf, had given him $10 billion over seven years, and he had suspended civil liberties. We were not promoting democracy.

This is the kind of policies that ultimately end up undermining our ability to fight the war on terrorism, and it will change when I’m president.

MCCAIN: And, Tom, if — if we’re going to go back and forth, I then — I’d like to have equal time to go — to respond to…

BROKAW: Yes, you get the…

MCCAIN: … to — to — to…

BROKAW: … last word here, and then we have to move on.

MCCAIN: Not true. Not true. I have, obviously, supported those efforts that the United States had to go in militarily and I have opposed that I didn’t think so.

I understand what it’s like to send young American’s in harm’s way. I say — I was joking with a veteran — I hate to even go into this. I was joking with an old veteran friend, who joked with me, about Iran.

But the point is that I know how to handle these crises. And Senator Obama, by saying that he would attack Pakistan, look at the context of his words. I’ll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I’ll get him. I know how to get him.

I’ll get him no matter what and I know how to do it. But I’m not going to telegraph my punches, which is what Senator Obama did. And I’m going to act responsibly, as I have acted responsibly throughout my military career and throughout my career in the United States Senate.

And we have fundamental disagreements about the use of military power and how you do it, and you just saw it in response to previous questions.

One comment

  • January 18, 2013 - 4:34 am | Permalink

    Please let me apologize for finding this article months later, and thus offering a very belated comment. But, just for the record, I voted for President Obama neither in 2008 nor in 2012 because I regard executions, either legal or extrajudicial, as immoral. “We will capture Osama bin Laden” is a worthy resolve, with his trial before some appropropriate international tribunal to follow, and, if he were convicted, humane but very secure imprisonment for life without possibility of parole. An intent to kill him is an intent to assassinate, a violation of our Constitution and in fact a surrender to the terrorist ethos. Making assassination the official policy our our country, however popular with however much “bipartisan support,” should be regarded not only as a reason to vote for a candidate and platform clearing excluding such policies, but as a “high crime” calling for impeachment. It is not a matter of partisanship or personalities, but a matter of basic human rights. At times, law enforcement officers may find themselves with little choice but to use lethal force, although they are trying with all their professional skill and courage to make a lawful arrest. But this was a case of a choice, “kill or capture” — and when there is a choice, to capture and bring a dangerous criminal to justice rather than carry out an assassination is the only moral option.

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