Obama’s stolen valor
White House can’t stop politicizing the bin Laden raid
The more the White House brags about the bin Laden raid, the more it is diminished. Yet the administration will not stop exploiting the mission for political gain.
The latest case of excessive self-praise comes from Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Speaking Monday at a fundraiser in Morris Township, N.J., Mr. Biden invoked half a millennium of history to extol President Obama’s daring leadership. “You can go back 500 years,” he said. “You cannot find a more audacious plan.” Seriously? A statement that over-the-top has a tinge of desperation.
As a nod to Mr. Biden’s grasp of history, the U.S. Naval Institute has begun to compile a list of 500 audacious acts of planning from the last 500 years. It’s an impressive chronicle of military achievements both famous and less wellknown. Some are large-scale and high-risk, like the D-day invasion or the Inchon landing during the Korean War. There was the “Miracle at Dunkirk” in which the Royal Navy and ordinary British citizens rescued around 340,000 cut-off troops from death or capture by Hitler’s forces. The April 18, 1942, raid on Tokyo led by Jimmy Doolittle, a complex, highly risky but successful operation boosted morale on the home front and earned its leader a Medal of Honor.
On July 4, 1976, 100 Israeli special forces flew 2,500 miles to Uganda to rescue more than 100 hostages seized by Palestinian hijackers on Air France flight 139. The Israelis lost only one man, the commander of the assault unit Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, brother of the current prime minister. Four years later, the United States attempted a similar but unsuccessful plan to rescue American hostages in Iran. The Desert One operation is often cited as contributing to the failure of President Carter’s re-election bid. “Do any one of you have a doubt that if that [bin Laden] raid failed, that this guy would be a one-term president?” Mr. Biden asked rhetorically. To the contrary, had the bin Laden raid been unsuccessful, the American people would never have heard about it, so the downside risk was minimal.
One of the most truly audacious plans in U.S. military history unfolded 50 miles south of Mr. Biden’s fundraiser. On the day after Christmas 1776, George Washington led a small but determined force against the Hessian garrison at Trenton. Washington risked more than his political career; he was betting his army, his personal safety, perhaps the fate of the nascent United States. The romantic painting of Washington crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze attempts to capture the gravity of that moment. It’s an event rightly enshrined in American myth, a moment when destiny truly hung in the balance. Washington’s army prevailed at Trenton, and he then boldly marched north and routed the British at Princeton.
Those who have had the honor to meet genuine heroes know they are modest about their accomplishments. Their audacity speaks for itself. So while Mr. Biden chest thumps and Mr. Obama fist bumps, five centuries of heroes look down on them and shake their heads in silence.