President Obama is talking to Steve Kroft on "60 Minutes" this evening. From the show's opening:
"Did you see the pictures?"
"What was your reaction when you saw them?"
"It was him."
It's pretty dramatic, with the "60 Minutes" ticking providing viewers with that thrill they've been missing since the doot… doot… doot… doot… doot. of "24." And we know that the terrorists lose at the end! Obama says that people who don't think bin Laden "deserved what he got needs to have their heads examined." It may be a touch more complicated than that, but it's hard to argue that the world is much poorer without that guy.
Being Barack Obama, he still manages to come off as cuddly even when he's talking about sending two dozen battle-hardened megaspies into a supposedly friendly country without visas under cover of darkness to shoot the boogeyman in the face. "It was the longest 40 minutes of my life, with the possible exception of when Sasha got menangitis when she was three months old, and I had to wait for the doctor to tell me what was wrong with her."
During the first big back-and-forth between Obama and Kroft, the president calls this "one of the most satisfying weeks for the United States since I've been president." He goes on to call bin Laden "a mass murderer" instead of a "war criminal" or an "enemy combatant" which, not to rain on everyone's parade, is accurate but not a terribly wise choice of words, since it means he unilaterally sent the military to carry out the execution of a criminal living in a country that has an extradition treaty with the U.S. Was it a tough decision? "Every time I send young men and women into a war theater, it's a tough decision," Obama says.
The intelligence case built up over the last several months is very interesting – he doesn't go into great detail, but there's a lot of new information. The CIA brought him preliminary evidence in Aug. 2010 and he told them to check it out in greater detail; even with the evidence that they ended up acting on, he calls it a "55/45 proposition." All hail Team 6: these guys went in knowing that they could be dealing with booby traps (and definitely having to take out a wall because of fake doors in the building), with no sight lines into the dwelling against a very dangerous guy who had had five years to prepare for the raid.
Quote of the evening: "Had he not been there, there would have been some significant consequences – we're going into a sovereign country and conducting a military operation. If it turns out that it's a prince from Dubai living in this compound, we've got some serious problems."
The quote that newsies will be interested in – they're not releasing those photos, and here's why: "We discussed this internally. Keep in mind that we are absolutely certain this is him; we've done DNA sampling and testing. There is no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden. It's imporant for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head aren't floating around as incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool. That's not who we are. We don't wave these things around as trophies." Other quote of the evening: "We as Americans are glad that he's gone, but we don't need to spike the football."
"Our special forces are the best of the best" – literally true with Team 6, who are basically the SEALs of the SEALs. There's some cool footage here of Obama cermoniously congratulating everybody involved, including Leon Panetta.
Ah, and now the grave dancing. "One of the ironies of this is that this guy was trying to promote an image of himself as an ascetic living in a cave; here he was living in a million-dollar compound." It's funny because it's true. We also get to see footage of bin Laden enjoying footage of bin Laden – seriously, he's watching one of his appearances on Al Jazeera, probably something with a staff and a cave in it.
The Pakistan thing is clearly either already a problem or rapidly on its way to being a problem. Obama is very reluctant to criticise the Pakistanis, giving them props for cooperation against other terrorists in the past. There are times when he can't quite hide how unimpressed he is with the way this whole thing played out on their end, though. "We were surprised that he could maintain a compound like that for that long." Boy, are their faces red! Obama says they're still investigating whether or not bin Laden personally ordered the compound constructed. When pressed by Kroft on why he didn't inform the Pakistani government: "If I'm not revealing to some of my closest aides what we're doing, then I'm sure as heck not going to be revealing it to folks I don't know."
Regarding the disposal of the corpse, this is clearly something they were ready for. President says "We consulted with experts in Islamic law" to determine how best to dith the body without desecrating it. "We took more care on this than bin Laden took when he killed 3000 people. He didn't seem to care much if they were desecrated. But that's what makes us different."
The seg closes with Obama giving a sense (vague but positive) of how much information they got from the house, which the Team 6 guys apparently sacked, and segues into footage of the president visiting Ground Zero in Manhattan with throngs of people chaning "Obama not Osama," etc. The high point is a really cute shot of teenager who was four when the towers fell and killed her father, hugging the president. Inside a fire station affected by the attacks, Kroft quizzes Obama on Iraq and Afganistan and whether we'll be out of those places any time soon – few straight answers are given, but he does say that "We do not need to have a perpetual footprint of the size that we have now" in Afghanistan, and that he hopes killing bin Laden will show anybody who might have considered giving him aid and comfort which way the wind is blowing.
And now Andy Rooney, who can say from personal experience that this is just as cool the time they killed Hitler.