Tuesday’s lead New York Times editorial thumped President Obama on the back for the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden, calling the president “a strong and measured leader.” In contrast, the two mentions of President Bush, who pursued Bin Laden aggressively, were both negative. The editors also tried to shoo away the pesky fact that the tip that led to Osama bin Laden’s killing came from a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, the island prison the paper has worked so hard to close down over the years, contradicting its own reporting in the process.
Leadership matters enormously, and President Obama has shown that he is a strong and measured leader. His declaration on Sunday night that “justice has been done” was devoid of triumphalism. His vow that the country will “remain vigilant at home and abroad” was an important reminder that the danger has not passed. His affirmation that the “United States is not and never will be at war with Islam” sent an essential message to the Muslim world, where hopes for democracy are rising but old hatreds, and leaders who exploit them, are still powerful.
Mr. Obama rightly affirmed that this country will be “relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies” — but “true to the values that make us who we are.” Maintaining that balance is never easy, and this administration has strayed, but not as often or as damagingly as the Bush team did. Much will be made of the fact that the original tip came from detainees at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. There is no evidence that good intelligence like this was the result of secret detentions or abuse and torture. Everything suggests the opposite.
Not “much” has necessarily been made in the Times, however. A nytimes.com search suggests the detail has so far only appeared once in a news story, either in print or online. The paper has also failed to note the irony of Obama having campaigned on a program of shutting the prison down.
And the paper's actual reporting contradicts the paper's liberal assumption that "secret detentions" failed to gather intelligence. Tuesday’s lead story twice noted that the intelligence work that led to bin Laden’s assassination included “the interrogation of C.I.A. detainees in secret prisons in Eastern Europe” -- prisons which liberals and Times reporters had previously deplored as ineffective, possibly illegal, and black marks on America's reputation.
The Times's editors then called for Obama to cut a deal with the Taliban:
Bin Laden’s death should be a warning to Taliban leaders and fighters that the United States is not giving up. The Obama administration should capitalize on that message of strength and seriously explore whether there is a political deal to be cut with the Taliban: one that doesn’t send Afghan women and girls back to the Dark Ages or reopen the country to Al Qaeda. But also one that helps bring a decade of American fighting closer to an end.