The Partisan Debate: Does Obama or Bush Deserve the Credit?

Conservatives argue the raid validates the Bush era anti-terror policies

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A line quickly gaining momentum on the right is that the death of Osama bin Laden redeems the policy of detaining enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay--and the controversial techniques used to interrogate them. Iowa Rep. Steve King, after tweeting that bin Laden would suffer "eternal damnation" thanks to intel from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Gitmo, posted his second response to the terrorist's death: "Wonder what President Obama thinks of water boarding now?"

Democrats are saying Obama deserves credit for "refocusing" American efforts on killing bin Laden, as incoming Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told The Hill's Michael O'Brien. Obama made the terrorist's killing "our highest military and intelligence priority, [and] warrants our gratitude." And on CBS's Early Show, King, too, said Obama deserves "tremendous credit." (Dick Cheney agreed.) But other conservatives are echoing King's tweeted remarks.

Former Donald Rumsfeld echoed that remark--albeit a lot more subtly--on the Today show Monday morning. "We have always been able to kill or capture ... [the issue was] an intelligence problem." And the new intel that led to the raid "very well could have been partly a result of the interviews that took place at Guantanamo," Rumsfeld guessed, according to The Hill's Jordan Fabian.

The meme has trickled down to conservative blogs, with the National Review's Steven Hayward noting, "Apparently some of the intelligence came from detainees at Gitmo. That will be inconvenient for the Gitmo Gnashers." His colleague, Shannen Coffin, adds, "Of course, this likely took a lot of work on the ground, through other methods of intelligence. But it would be interesting to know the where and how of the interrogations. Were these GTMO detainees and was this the result of the much maligned enhanced interrogation program?"  And Pajamas Media's Bryan Preston notes that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al Libbi, both key to finding bin Laden, have been in Guantanamo for years--and were waterboarded.

The Weekly Standard's Thomas Jocelyn argues that many groups within the Obama administration deserve praise, "But one party, in particular, deserves mention because its members have been repeatedly demonized in the press: the Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO)." He continues,

"The press has been quick to highlight every reported instance of abuse (most of them fiction) and every case where an innocent was detained (comparatively few). At the same time, our leading press organizations, including the New York Times, have either ignored or downplayed the value of the intelligence learned through interrogations at Guantanamo. Yet, it was that intelligence that ultimately led to the death of Osama bin Laden."

Commentary's Alana Goodman concludes, "If it wasn’t for Guantanamo Bay, it seems highly unlikely that the government would have been able to uncover this information. We can thank the counterterrorism policies put in place by the Bush administration--and President Obama’s savvy decision to continue them--for leading intelligence officials to bin Laden."

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