John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the gates of hell, but he won’t even follow him to the cave where he lives.
Beam says “McCain didn’t have a chance to follow Bin Laden to Tora Bora.” Gerson demands to know whether Obama is calling McCain a coward.
Both miss the background.
Obama has said repeatedly that, if the U.S. gets actionable intelligence about top al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, he as President would authorize going after those targets without waiting for permission from the Pakistani government (which had repeatedly withheld such permission). Since then, McCain has gone around saying that Obama wants to “attack” or “invade” or “bomb” an ally. Those attacks on Obama’s judgment by McCain didn’t stop when the Bush Administration actually did what Obama says he would do, using missile strikes inside Pakistan to take out a senior al-Qaeda figure. But McCain, while criticizing Obama for being willing to attack bin Laden in Pakistan, where he is, continues to promise to “pursue him to the Gates of Hell,” where, according to the latest intelligence reports, he is not.
So the issue seems squarely joined: McCain would, and Obama would not, play “Mother, may I?” with the Pakistani government if there were a chance to kill or capture Osama bin Laden. I had been hoping that Obama would strike back on this question, and that’s what he did.