Fred Barnes reported that President Bush told him that capturing Osama bin Laden is not "a paramount goal of the war on terror." But Barnes gave no indication that the comments he reported appear to conflict with Bush's repeated, public pledges to stay on the trail of bin Laden. Will other members of the media probe this apparent discrepancy?
As the weblog Think Progress noted, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes reported in his September 13 column that President Bush told him in a recent meeting in the Oval Office that capturing Osama bin Laden is not "a paramount goal of the war on terror." Barnes reiterated on the September 14 edition of Fox News Live that Bush said sending U.S. Special Forces into "the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan" to capture bin Laden is "not a top priority use of American resources." But as recently as September 11, Bush said of U.S. efforts to capture bin Laden, "[N]o matter how long it takes, America will find you, and we will bring you to justice." Barnes gave no indication that the comments he reported Bush made appear to contradict Bush's repeated pledges to stay on the trail of bin Laden until he is captured. Will other members of the media probe this apparent discrepancy?
Bush has recently repeated his commitment to hunting down bin Laden:
- In his September 11 speech from the Oval Office, apparently the day before the meeting Barnes attended, Bush said: "Osama bin Laden and other terrorists are still in hiding. Our message to them is clear: No matter how long it takes, America will find you, and we will bring you to justice."
- From the September 10 press gaggle with White House press secretary Tony Snow:
QUESTION: Osama bin Laden -- there was a Washington Post story today saying that the trail has gone stone cold.
TONY SNOW (White House press secretary): That's just wrong. That's just flat wrong. The fact is that although we're not at liberty to go into sources and methods, we have never stopped looking for bin Laden and will not, until we have found him and dealt with him.
- From a September 5 speech:
BUSH: Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. The question is: Will we listen? Will we pay attention to what these evil men say? America and our coalition partners have made our choice. We're taking the words of the enemy seriously. We're on the offensive, and we will not rest, we will not retreat, and we will not withdraw from the fight, until this threat to civilization has been removed.
This is not the first time Bush has appeared to reverse course on the necessity of capturing bin Laden. As Think Progress noted, Bush told reporters on September 16, 2001, that he wanted bin Laden "dead or alive"; at a March 13, 2002 press conference, Bush said, "I am truly not that concerned about him."
From the 10 a.m. hour of the September 14 edition of Fox News' Fox News Live:
SCOTT: The Bush administration, as you know, has taken a lot of heat over the last five years for failing to catch the world's number one terrorist, Osama bin Laden. But the president insists on a different view of what's most important in the war on terror and what we have to do to win it. We're talking with the Washington editor of Condé Nast Portfolio Matthew Cooper and Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, co-host of The Beltway Boys, and a Fox News political analyst.
All right, so, Fred, you and a few other journalists were in the Oval Office with the president, right, and he says catching Osama bin Laden is not job number one?
BARNES: Well, he said, "Look, you can send 100,000 Special Forces" -- that's the figure he used -- "to the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan and hunt him down, but he just said that's not a top priority use of American resources." His vision of a war on terror is one that involves intelligence to find out from people to get tips to follow them up and break up plots to kill Americans before they occur, as what happened recently in that case of the planes that were to be blown up by terrorists, we think, coming from England. And that's the top priority. He says, you know, getting Osama bin Laden is just a low priority compared to that.