Vice President Joe Biden revised his version of the role he played in the 2012 Osama Bin Laden raid, contradicting Hillary Clinton’s account of events.
Speaking at a forum at George Washington University with former Vice President Walter Mondale on Tuesday, Biden recalled that the cabinet was very uncertain. “We sat in the cabinet room, and at the end of the day, making the decision, [the president] said I want everyone’s opinion. And everyone went around the room, and there were only two people who were definitive, and were absolutely certain: [then-CIA director] Leon Panetta said go, and [then-Defense Secretary] Bob Gates, who’s already publicly said this, said ‘don’t go,’ and others were 51-49.”
The vice president remembered joking, “You all sound like 17 [economist] Larry Summers: ‘On the one hand, on the other hand.’”
According to Biden, the president asked him directly what he thought. The vice president said the thought there was a “third option,” which he “didn’t really think we should do,” explaining: “I said, ‘Well, I think we should make one more pass with another [drone] to see if it is [bin Laden].’ And the reason I did that is I didn’t want to take a position to go, if that was not what [Obama] was going to go.”
Biden recounted that he and the president “walked out of the room, and walked upstairs, I told him my opinion. I thought he should go, but to follow his instincts.”
In 2012, Biden told a somewhat different version of the deliberations in the Situation Room, describing most the cabinet as 49-51, with him more definitively stating: “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.” He then suggested seeking more drone surveillance.
Biden’s account contradicts Clinton, who has represented that she was definitively for the raid, while Biden was against it. “In her 2014 memoir, Hard Choices, Clinton wrote that Biden ‘remained skeptical’ of a raid. She said that she respected his and Gates’ concerns, but ‘I came to the conclusion that the intelligence was convincing and the risks were outweighed by the benefits of success. We just had to make sure it worked,’” according to CBS News.
She was even more emphatic in the significant role that she played in the decision to go forward with the raid during an interview this past summer with South Carolina Democrat Party chairman Jaime Harrison. “I was one who recommended to the president that he go ahead,” she said.
“[The president’s] advisers were split because it was a very risky operation to send in the Navy SEALs, to fly through Pakistani airspace, to land in a settled populated neighborhood and to take out the gunmen who were guarding bin Laden and either capture or kill bin Laden himself,” the former secretary of state explained.
In an interview with Politico on Tuesday, Obama’s former chief of staff, Bill Daley, sided with Biden’s version of events. “’The motivation’s kind of fudgy, as is obvious — the Situation Room’s not as private as you’d think it should be,’ Daley said, agreeing that this moment reflected Biden’s practice of not disagreeing with Obama in front of others,” Politico reports. “In the decision, that was pretty much his sort of fudging, and then he went out with the president as he said and walked up the stairs with him,” the former chief of staff stated.
“That was about the most complete and accurate explanation I’ve heard from the vice president, which is reflected in what I remember,” Daley said, adding that it’s the previous version Biden has given [in 2012] that doesn’t match his memory. “I don’t remember him being that emphatic saying, ‘Don’t go, don’t do this.’”
If Clinton is guilty of making herself to be more of a Profile in Courage in the Situation Room deliberations than she was, it would not be the first time. During her 2008 run for the presidency, Clinton infamously said that she came under sniper fire while landing in Bosnia as First Lady in the 1990s. Video of her arrival showed her account to be categorically false.
h/t: The Hill