Vice President Joe Biden admitted over the weekend that, when President Barack Obama had to decide whether to authorize the May 2 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, he advised him not to do so.
Obama authorized the operation anyway, and Navy SEAL Team 6 raided the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden was thought to be hiding. By nightfall in the United States, word began to spread that bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader who masterminded the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was dead.
But while Obama acted decisively, his advisers were far from reaching a consensus on the raid.
Every single person in that room hedged their bet except Leon Panetta. Leon said go. Everyone else said, 49, 51, Biden told a gathering of Democrats over the weekend, in unsolicited remarks. He [Obama] got to me. He said, 'Joe, what do you think?' And I said, 'You know, I didn't know we had so many economists around the table.' I said, 'We owe the man a direct answer. Mr. President, my suggestion is, don't go. We have to do two more things to see if he's there.'
Biden did not specify what those two things were, but clearly, he did not think the White House had enough evidence to conclude that bin Laden was, in fact, in that compound.
Obama said he would make a final decision the following morning, and he did.
He knew what was at stake, Biden said. Not just the lives of those brave warriors, but literally the presidency. And he pulled the trigger.
The takeaway, Biden said, was that, despite the accusations he has faced of weakness, Obama is a decisive leader at the most important moments.
Obama doesn't lead from behind, he said; he just leads. And that's clear.