President Obama had “60 Minutes” to make his case that sending in a top team of Navy SEALs to capture or kill Osama bin Laden (it turned out to be the latter) was the right thing to do.
The venerable CBS News show devoted nearly its full hour Sunday night to an interview with the President – his first since his dramatic announcement on national TV a week earlier that bin Laden had been killed and Americans had done it.
“Justice was done,” the President said flatly in the “60 Minutes” interview conducted by Steve Kroft. And anyone who doesn’t think so “needs to have their head examined,” the President said.
The interview was filmed last Wednesday at the White House (with a little bit of it filmed a day later, in a firehouse in midtown Manhattan during Obama’s visit to New York City). Kroft asked the President to assess the difficulty of the decision he made to send the SEALs into Pakistani territory. “This was a very difficult decision,” the President said, admitting that “the information we had [that it was indeed bin Laden living in that compound] was not 100 percent conclusive.” Indeed, the sense of certainty was a lot less than 100 percent, the President conceded.
“It was worth it,” the “Commando”-in-Chief said of his decision to set the SEAL “action plan” in motion when Kroft asked him why he gave the go-ahead despite the uncertainty. What he meant was: If the mission was successful, it would have been worth the worry and anxiety in terms of scoring a victory in the War on Terror.
The President disclosed that he made the decision on Thursday, April 28, three days before the mission actually went off on Sunday. With this crucial mission weighing heavily on his mind, he then went about the business of being President – visiting sites in the south that had been ravaged by tornados, attending the Space Shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and then, on Saturday night, roasting Donald Trump at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington.
“The presidency requires you to do more than one thing at a time,” he told Kroft when the CBS newsman asked how he could focus on all these other commitments while the bin Laden drama unfolded.
The President declared unequivocally that bin Laden is dead. “We are absolutely certain this was him,” he said when Kroft asked him why he has decided against releasing photos of bin Laden’s corpse. The President said the bloody pictures are “very graphic photos,” images he doesn’t want “floating around as an incitement to further violence.”
He said he felt it wasn’t right to “trot these things out as trophies. . . . We don’t need to ‘spike the football’.”
But we do need to look into whether officials of the Pakistan government knew bin Laden’s location and helped him sustain his lifestyle there for at least the last five years, the President said. “We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden in Pakistan,” Obama said.
What does bin Laden’s removal mean for the War on Terror? Based on the treasure trove of intelligence the SEALs took with them from the bin Laden compound – in computers, cellphones and other hardware – the President said, “We’ve got a chance to really deal a fatal blow to al-Qaeda.”
Well, as the SEALs are fond of saying, “Hooyah!”