tv Meet the Press NBC May 8, 2011 10:30am-11:30am EDT
edition of "meet the press." the u.s. and the world after osama bin laden. >> our strategy is working and there is no greater evidence of that. and justice is finally being delivered for osama bin laden. >> the big questions now. are we safer? is al-qaeda a diminished foe? should the u.s. accelerate its withdrawal from afghanistan? and did pakistan knowingly shelter the most wanted man in the world? >> how could bin laden gone undetected living next door to pakistan equivalent to west
point? >> the president's national security advise or tom donald. and the ongoing debate, does osama's death and the intelligence behind him vindicate the bush administration's counter-terror policies. with us the cia in the bush administration, michael hayden, michael chernoff, and rudy giuliani. finally the political impact, the ultimate commander in chief for obama. is it a game changer for 2012? the first republican field holds its first debate. our round table votes in. bob woodward, presidential historian, doris kearn goodwin. and political strategist, mike
murphy. >> from nbc news in washington, "meet the press" with david gregory. >> good morning. the raid on the compound in abbottab abbottabad, pakistan, provided a treasure troef of data, showing that bin laden had remained highly active in directing al-qaeda in the decade since 9/11. among some of the items released yesterday afternoon, five videotapes, never before seen images of bin laden, giving practices to the american people, and one showed a bearded bin laden huddled under a blanket flipping through what appeared to be news footage of himself on television. the audiotapes were not released to the u.s., so as not to spread any more to america.
tom donald. good to see you. >> thank you. good to be here. >> from this raid, we referenced the videos just a moment ago. >> a couple points on that. first of all, as you know, the forces, when they went in sunday night, obviously took out osama bin laden but also gathered up all the material they could for exploitation by intelligence services, first point. second is the scale of what we've got here. this is the largest cache of intelligence derived from them. >> we see him looking at images of himself on screen. where is that actually happening and when? do you have any idea? >> i don't have any idea with respect to the timing that i can share with you, but let me say something about it. point one, it indicates to us that in addition to being the
leader of al-qaeda, he was director of operations, including propaganda efforts, obviously. >> propaganda is one thing. what leads you to believe he is operationally in control because that is something different than we've believed in the past several years. >> we're just at the front of this, david. i'm not going to say anything i really haven't had a chance to study at this point. we've just going through this large cache of information. we'll learn as we go along. we'll have hopefully information about our ability to tactically and strategically defeat al-qaeda, but if we have anything, we'll act on this. but it is important that osama bin laden, and i can tell you this by an initial look at this material, had an active role as director which made our role sunday night all the more important to our goal which is a
strategic defeat of this operation. >> you said there were other tapes released as well, bin laden making addresses one purportedly to the united states that he had prepared. based on what do you say he was still calling the shots for al-qaeda? >> because we've seen the initial pass-through of information. >> specific plots? >> i don't want to get into detail. >> but we know there was at least an attack on the railway system on september 11, 2010. >> and we make the appropriate notices and take the specific action. >> were there references to specific plots? >> i don't want to get into the details. >> how worried were you about retaliation? >> a couple points. the president said, when he announced the action to the nation last sunday night -- and this is a significant achievement in terms of our ability to defeat the al-qaeda organization, which is a principal counter-terrorism goal of the united states, but as the president said, this is not the
end of the effort with al-qaeda, and we'll continue our efforts. after the raid and killing of osama bin laden on sunday night, we'll continue to take every opportunity we have as this organization continues to survive. >> you specifically fear retaliation? >> i don't have a specific thing to talk to you about at this point, but obviously in our planning before we undertook the raid, we thought hard about specific kinds of actions that could be taken, and you saw the rhetoric at the end of last week, which is to be expected. and as the president said sunday night, it's absolutely critical for us to remain vigilant as we continue to press this organization. >> the large question is not only covered by that "newsweek" cover, mission accomplished, but was this a blow to al-qaeda? >> we cannot consider al-qaeda defeated. they continue to be a threat to the united states, but we have taken a really important milestone in terms of taking down this organization. >> are they a leaderless
operation at this point? >> at this point, they, as an organization, will have to work themselves through some sort of succession. >> who was coming out, according to intelligence officials, may not now be a particularly popular figure within al-qaeda. >> i think our assessment is he is not anywhere near the leader osama bin laden was. >> and, therefore, can al-qaeda still be as potent without a strong leader like bin laden was? >> i think it's a real blow. let me say two things about that. number one, we assessed at the end of last year, given the efforts we took at the beginning of the administration, following the efforts of the prior administration, that al-qaeda was in the weakest shape it had been in since 2001. it was still a dangerous organization, and with the steps that that we took, with the assault on bin laden, we'll continue to press this strategic feat of this organization, which is our major goal.
>> back in 2001, after the september 11 attack, president bush went to fort campbell and made a very clear message about what was then labeled the bh doctrine. this is what he said. >> america has a message for the nations of the world. if you harbor terrorists, you are a terrorist. if you train or arm a terrorist, you are a terrorist. if you feed a terrorist or fund a terrorist, you're a terrorist and you will be held accountable by the united states. >> is pakistan guilty of harboring osama bin laden? >> at this point i can tell you directly that i've not seen evidence that would tell us that the political, the military or the intelligence leadership had foreknowledge of bin laden? >> how could they not know, is what members of both parties are saying. >> i understand. but at this point i haven't seen
evidence that would indicate they had foreknowledge of this. that's the first point. the second point is the fact you're alluding to. osama bin laden was in this town for six years, 35 miles away from the capital of pakistan, isl islamabad. in a town where they had an important military academy. how could this have happened in pakistan? we need to investigate it, we need to work with the pakistanis and we're pressing the pakistanis on this. >> if the government finds out that pakistan harbored osama bin laden, what are the consequences? >> i don't want to speculate with respect to a hypothetical at this point. >> let me tell you, that is not a hypothetical. that is the object, the subject of your investigation into pakistan right now. >> but i think we should find the facts first, right? >> the president isn't going. he had a visit plan. he's holding off on that until you learn more? >> there is not a visit planned to go to pakistan, but there was
a visit planned before the events. >> should pakistan be held accountable, with what president bush was alluding to, should they be held accountable? >> we will act to protect our interests, and with pakistan, i want to say this. it's really important to do this. we've had differences with pakistan. the harboring, there was some support network in abbottabad, pakistan that supported bin laden. we haven't seen evidence that the government knew about that, but they need to investigate that, and they need to provide us with intelligence from the compound that they gathered including access to bin laden's three wives that they have in custody. but we need to act in our national interest. we have had difficulty with pakistan, as i said, but we've also had to work closely with pakistan in our countered-terror efforts. more terrorists and extremists have been captured in pakistan than in the world. >> but you won't share the
details with us. >> that's not a matter of trust, it's a matter of national security. when the president was briefed on this operation and the suspicion we had that the compound in abbottabad was probably harboring bin laden, he said from the beginning we have to have the absolute tightest operation security on this. why? one, because if it leaked at all, he would have been out of there, right? and two, obviously, we have an obligation to protect the safety and security of our operators. so we only shared this operation with a very small circle within our own government. and to share it with any government outside the united states would have been to lose control of dissem nation which would not have been in the national interest. it's the extraordinary actions of this operation that we were able to maintain national security for as long as we did. >> let me ask about the ongoing debate, about how we got to this moment. the debate about how the intelligence was gathered originally that led the government to find bichb bn lad
carry out this raid, and whether there was a level of vindication for the bush administration. this was written in the "washington post." in other words, from a global war on terror infrastructure, the critics, including barack obama himself, deployed as a tragic detour from american rectitude. donald rumsfeld said this this week. water boarding, let's be blunt, did not produce an enormous amount of intelligence, to say that they just aren't facing the truth. how do you respond? >> first of all, i'm not going to comment on specific pieces of
intelligence in the source. point two, i can tell you this. that the intelligence achievement here, the intelligence assessment that was brought before president obama beginning in the summer of last year which resulted in hundreds of pieces of intelligence over many years by the cia and other institutions in the government, no single piece of intelligence led this. david, that's not the way this works. over time, you have professionals combing through this and the case goes cold and it heats up again, right? >> but a specific point. did harsh interrogation help in the effort to ultimately identify where he was? >> no single piece of intelligence led to this. now, we had -- >> both things could be true. but can you address my question? did harsh interrogation help in the hunt for osama? >> i'm not going to comment on specific intelligence except to say the following, that intelligence was gathered from detainees, it was gathered from intelligence, it was gathered technically, it was gathered from human sources over time. and it was gathered -- and some very important points for america and you're viewers to
understand. this was an effort across two administrations. indeed, many of the same professionals who worked with president bush on this project worked with us today, right? so it is not a matter of partisanship, and indeed, one of the messages, i think, that goes out from this is this. that the united states about its goals has persistence and determination, that the united states does what it says it's going to do, and very importantly, last sunday night the warorld saw is has the capabilities to do so. >> the famous photograph in the situation room. you're standing in the back with your arms crossed as you're watching this incredibly risky and dramatic scene play out, the raid on the compound. and the details proved to be incorrect in part that had to be corrected. how did that confusion come about? >> let me address that. it is not surprising that in the wake of a military operation that some of the initial reports will be confused and not precisely accurate. we tried to put out information as responsibly and as timely as
we could to you and others in the press and to the public. when we got corrections as we continued to work through this, we put out refinements and corrections to try to get the story as accurate as possible. but that doesn't detract from the overall arc of the story that's been clear since sunday night, that we had an intelligence achievement here. we had an amazing military operation and osama bin laden was killed sunday night. all of that was absolutely true in the arc of that story despite the fact there had to be some refinement, which is not unusual, david, in uncovering actions like this, don't detract from that. >> you were with the president in fort campbell when he met privately with the soldiers who performed this operation. did he know who pulled the trigger? >> i don't want to get into the specifics of the briefing. >> my understanding is nobody would actually admit to pulling the trigger because part of the culture of the navy s.e.a.l. is, look, we're all a team here, there's no single person.
>> right. and it was very much a team presentation. he was briefed very interestingly not by the brass but by the operators. he was briefed on every moment of the operation from the moment they took off to afghanistan to the moment they returned. and every action they took, everything they saw was fully briefed to the president yesterday, and it was a very moving moment. you know, he said yesterday, he said, this is the finest small fighting force the world has ever seen, and it was. it was a circumstantial case on the intelligence. it was 50/50 on the intelligence. i observed this and the president said this to these folks yesterday. i think what tilted the decision was 100% confidence in their capability. >> we'll leave it there. mr. donald, thank you very much. >> thank you, david. >> we turn to the former secretary of homeland security, michael chernoff, former director of the cia, michael hayden, who now both work as principals of the chernoff group
and security firm. new york city's mayor at the time of the 9/11 attacks, rudy giuliani. mr. hayden, i want to start with you. the news mr. donald talked about, this is the largest trove of information that the government has found. what did you learn from this? >> the first is you want to find out a thread of information. the second detail you want to find out is locational information and al-qaeda leadership, and then the third, and this is the long-term effort, you're essentially creating an encyclopedia of how al-qaeda operates, what the system is, their tactics, their techniques, their procedures. this is wonderful not just in its size, but we have not gotten what we call sse, sensitive site exploitation, going in and getting materials on al-qaeda leadership for several years. so it's big and it's new. >> it was the understanding of
the intelligence secretary chernoff that after 9/11 no longer became operationally involved. we're seeing these videos. difficult to know, but you heard donald say we think he was more directly in control. what do you think that means? >> i think it's going to cause us to evaluate a little bit more about what the leadership structure is and what his role was, and particularly to look at the material that's being exploited and to see whether there are, in fact, anything that can lead us to protect against future attacks. that being said, i think it was clear there was a cadre of very experienced leaders below bin laden, and those are still in place, and so part of what we need to do is try to understand what their tactics and strategy are based upon the material that we find in this treasure trove. >> mayor giuliani, the question of what this represents against al-qaeda. a death blow or something else. this is certainly a significant
development. >> very significant development. removing a leader of the significance of this man is extraordinary. i mean, this is like removing a hitler or a stalin in the middle of those conflicts. he's going to be very hard to replace. and it's a symbolic blow for an organization that feeds a lot on emotion. this is a decentralized organization that's tied together by their feelings and emotions. so removing this man will help a lot. but it's not a death blow by any means. this is a pretty decentralized organization. over the last couple years they've been operating in yemen, other places, so they're not operating in just one place. and i think they're particularly angry at us right now, so long term, this is a fabulous, terrific development making us safer. sort term it presents some very substantial risks which i think the administration is aware of. >> i want to play you a piece i made this week.
steve call, the author who knows al-qaeda so well, asked about what al-qaeda is still capable of. this is what he said in part. >> al-qaeda is a resilient organization but it is not stredistred i spreading or growing so it has the capability of carrying out attacks that we saw christmas before last where al-qaeda almost blew up an american airliner with several hundred people on board. once in a while it could kill hundreds of people. that ought to get our attention but it need not be the basis for organizing every aspect of our national life or our national defense. >> do you agree with that or not? >> i don't know if i were to agree it's not spreading. i think if you look over the last few years, you've seen a greater presence with al-qaeda or affiliation with al-qaeda in north africa, obviously in yemen and somalia and even parts of central africa. we don't know what the strategy of going for the big attack,
which we always assumed was a core element of the strategy, was delivered by bin laden personally. now that he's gone, there may be an opportunity for others who have different views of the attacks to shape strategically. does that mean where instead of blowing up an airliner, you're bringing simultaneous attacks on different facilities. while this is a big advantage over bin laden, we have to look very carefully at what may be tactical changes in how they move forward. >> are you concerned they didn't capture him alive? >> no. it might have provided some intelligence advantages, but i doubt very much more than we're going to get from the documents and hard drives and disks and so on. i understand quite well. then you would have had somebody in our custody and that would have been in the news every day and motivating people, perhaps people now who would be less interested in coming to kill us because of some of the videos we've been able to show.
>> let me follow up with all of you on this ongoing debate i asked mr. donald about. interrogations, the counter-terrorist policies after 9/11, specifically waterboarding. michael hayden, isn't it somewhat of a question whether you can tie that moment to this moment? heightened interrogation ultimately led us to bin laden? can you make that statement? >> i wouldn't describe it that way. i would describe it like panetta described it. some of our information came from the cia detainees and all those particular detainees did, indeed, have in hand interrogation techniques used against them. you can't deny we got valuable information from these folks. director panetta went on to say it's just an open question whether we would have gotten them from other means. the fact of the matter is we did it this way and this way worked. >> mayor giuliani, you heard a
declaretive statement from senator rumsfeld that said if anybody questioned how waterboarding worked could make those facts. how could you make such an assertion with certainty? >> you can't make it with certainty unless the administration reveals all the data, which they're not. but i think his answer to your question spoke a lot that waterboarding played a significant role in this. maybe not the critical role, but certainly a significant role. and it just makes sense. i mean, these kinds of materials are not obtained easily, and there's a tremendous amount of material. >> isn't that the point, secretary chernoff, which is, look, mohammad has waterboarded 100 times. he never gave up the truth about the k the courier that gave up bin
laden. >> i don't think i can add anything to it. >> the question is is it objectively noble? >> i'll tell you what is noble? we had an apparatus during 9/11 that was stovepiped and didn't have the ability to act in a timely way. both presidents deserve credit to the point where tom donald said the president could have confidence that this apparatus worked, taking intelligence and moving it in realtime. all of that is parts of the puzzle. some of it people will like, some of it they won't like, but it was the intelligence of using these tools that helped. >> was pakistan particularly helpful to the united states with information that ultimately i.d.ed couriers that led to
bin laden? >> we've discovered things that led to pakistan, but i'm not aware of any pakistani help that led to the events of last weekend. >> did pakistan harbor a terrorist? >> there was a terrorist in pakistan that seemed to feel like he was very safe, and they have a lot of questions to answer and the burden of proof is on them. >> you heard giuliani say it's pakistan that's going to investigate this and there's a lot going for pakistan. >> pakistan is a critical country, it's a country of nuclear weapons. if bin laden could have this kind of access to the government and get this kind of protection, if that's the case, and we don't know that it is, what does that say about the security of the nuclear weapons, what does it say about the american force there and how secure it really is?
this has huge implications and before we comment on it we better be right about it. >> there are going to be people who say, wait a minute. let's focus mainly on counter-terror like this president did. let's accelerate that withdrawal from afghanistan. >> i think we need to see how this plays out, david. this is not a singular event that has us making a sharp break left or right. there are lots of reasons for what we're doing in afghanistan. going after bin laden is but one of them. let's see what happens to this network now. let's see what they do. as secretary chernoff said, we could get a lot more biodiversity, so to speak, in the kind of threats coming after us if bin laden did have such a controlling hand. now you're going to have more independent actors and perhaps more agile actors, so let's wait. >> from your point of view, does our tempo increase? >> our tempo should increase.
this could be a bit of the pursuit phase, and we should press the fight. >> mayor giuliani, i want to take you back to the end of this week. this president, nearly a decade after president bush visited ground zero after 9 lash/11, re, and you were there with him as he met with firefighters and family members of the victims. there was another image that was so poignant this week from sunday night, firefighters looking at the ticker tape -- i don't know if that was lower manhattan or times square -- osama bin laden is dead. describe what it was like, and is there a measure of emotional symmetry ten years later to have him visit? >> there sure is. i had lunch with the president and the firefighters who he met with, and it was a very emotional and a very satisfying experience. i think they felt a burden lifted from them. hard for them to describe. it doesn't bring back our loved ones, it doesn't bring back those tremendous heroes that saved this country on september 11, but there is no miss taking
the fact there is a burden that's been lifted from them. they can look at this somewhat differently now. and i think all of them, whatever their plolitical persuasions, had great a admiration for the president's decision. he made a correct decision, including the issue of disposing of bin laden's body. these are men who exercise bravery every day in their lives. i think they admire that in the president. >> did it impact at all, mayor giuliani, your thinking about running for president next year? >> not in the slightest. i separate the two things. this was an american achievement. two presidents get great credit for it. i also thanked president bush this week, because no matter what you come out on the debate of waterboarding, no doubt all the work he did and the changes he made in intelligence brought this about. and president obama is improving that, and his decision making
brought it about. it's a great achievement for both political parties, all americans. >> and you're still considering running for the presidency? >> not right this minute. but yes, i am. >> we'll leave it there. thanks to all of you very much. coming up, what will the president's bold decision of going after bin laden mean for his political capitol, on the hill, and his political future? could this be a game change for the race for the white house next year? our round table weighs in. presidential historian doris kearns goodwin and republican strategist mike murphy. we know why we're here.
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>> well, we know that this was a ten-year hunt that was very frustrating for everyone, at the highest level and at the operational level. but what i think in a way, in the intelligence world that's a triumph of middle management in the culture of persistence of for years taking this raw intercepts, you know, translating, listening, going back, connecting the dots, and then finally discovering and finding someone calling the chief courier for bin laden, who literally had to leave that compound and drive 90 minutes before he could put the battery in his cell phone -- operational security -- and then they found out about that and they said, ah hah, this is the guy we've been chasing for years. >> this guy was not hiding in a cave, and now intelligence officials are telling us, no, he was still operationally in control. what does that mean? >> well, we're going to find out more about that. i'm a little skeptical. i don't think he was giving
rudder orders. i think he was involved in looking at it. but what happened, what's so significant is the frustration. people said, look, bin laden and al qaeda is winning the war psychologically, and we're going to keep trying to get him. and they realize that bin laden would make a mistake, they would get complacent, and that's exactly what they did. in taking -- i mean, in a way, being hold up in that compound was smug, it was raising a middle finger to the united states and saying, hey, look, we're hiding right under your nose. >> doris kearns goodwin, "time" magazine had the latest cover of a threat eliminated, going back over the years all the way to adolf hitler. and when we talk about the leadership moment for obama, i thought the brookings institute, a conservative voice said something interesting about what this means to president obama. watch this.
>> the american people have an interesting quality in their character, which you can trace all through their history. they want their presidents to be men of peace, but they also want to know that, if necessary, the american president can kill. >> i think that's right. think of two of our most loveable presidents. theodore roosevelt. what was his slogan? speak softly and carry a big stick. this was a big stick. eisenhower, having won world war ii, could then take enormous pride that not a single soldier died in combat during his time. so, i think what happened in this thing is it's not just the public perception of obama that's strengthened now because he acted as commander in chief, but you never know what happens internally to a president when they take a risky thing and it works. jfk took control of his presidency after the cuban missile crisis. this guy will now take control of his presidency. i think he's now going to be able to trust his own judgment even more than the military, and that's huge psychologically. and america feels better again. that's the huge thing that we don't know about, how long that will last, but our prestige and
sense of our self is now heightened for a while, and everybody wants that. >> no, i believe you have to give him credit. he took the harder choice. it's easier to push the predator button, a lot less risk, and he took the risky choice, but he got the jackpot, and you have to give him credit for that. you know, now we have osama bin laden's diary and we know most of what he knew, which means we know a lot, and al qaeda finds itself in a horrible two-way squeeze, in the death of their figurehead, and we now know more operational leader, their intelligence in our hands and the arab spring on the other side making their ideology less popular. so, it's not over. it's a huge victory, and it proves that since 9/11 going forward under two presidents, the machine worked it made mistakes. it self-corrected. and those middle management people are dogged and deserve our respect, public service both in the military and cia, and we got him. >> one of the debates this week, katty kay, came over whether or not to release a photo of bin laden. we have the results of a poll we conducted. look at this, backup for the
president's decision, 64% saying the photo should not have been released. and indeed, the tapes that came out are proof that we were there and we got him. and to say nothing of the fact that al qaeda confirmed it. >> which is certainly why the white house released the tapes, to confirm to those who might be around the world doubting this -- and there certainly are doubters. i've spoken to moderate muslims this week that told me that i'm not sure osama bin laden was really killed there. maybe he died a long time ago. how do we know the americans were there? and when i say, if we release photographs, would that change their mind? and no, no, they could have photo-shop. this is a world of conspiracy theorists and i don't think that those who doubted the americans killed osama bin laden would have changed their minds. and i think the president was right in saying those graphic photographs could have enflamed muslim sentiment. one of the extraordinary things we've seen this week, david, is that there haven't been retaliatory attacks so far. we have not seen huge demonstrations in afghanistan, huge, violent demonstrations in pakistan against the united
states for taking this action, and the release of those photographs could have sparked something in an area of the world that is already on a tin box. >> bob woodward, you have to look back at obama the campaigner, who said if i had actionable intelligence, i would move in to pakistan, whether they wanted me to or not. he was heavily criticized for that. and here he is in october of 2008, again, with that singular focus on what would guide his foreign policy. this is what he said. >> we will kill bin laden, we will crush al qaeda. that has to be our biggest national security priority. >> he resets the hunt for bin laden. he increases forces in afghanistan. that was a campaign promise kept. >> it was. and back 18 months ago, when he was making his afghanistan decisions to add 30,000 troops, he was saying in these top-secret meetings in the white house, the poison is in pakistan. he authorized top-secret, lethal, covert action in pakistan and around the world,
and he has really ramped up the effort to be tough because he thinks that's going to end all these wars faster and send a message to al qaeda and their sympathizers, extremists that, you know, as he has said, we're coming after you. we don't forget. >> let me get a break in here. i want to come back and talk about some of the follow-up questions, afghanistan, what it means specifically for the 2012 race. does the euphoria pass? back with our panel right after this. [ man ] i've seen beautiful things. ♪ i've seen the sunrise paint the desert. witnessed snowfall on the first day of spring. ♪ but the most beautiful thing i've ever seen was the image on a screen that helped our doctor see my wife's cancer was treatable. [ male announcer ] ge technologies help doctors detect cancer early
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we're back with our roundtable. doris kearns goodwin, the question of afghanistan, why are we still there? i think a lot of americans wondering whether the mission has been accomplished now with bin laden dead. here's a cartoon from the press of atlantic city, rob turno. it says do you think we'll pull out of afghanistan now that we've killed osama bin laden? and the other one says, sure, like we pulled out of iraq after we killed saddam? >> well, president bush was burdened by the campaign promises that this has to be fought. now that osama bin laden has been killed, which is the reason we were in afghanistan, it gives us more leeway. it's not like the second soldier said, we can come right out, but i think he can trust his own judgment now and he doesn't have
to be burdened by the past. he can look at it much more rationally and make the decision about what's best for us. >> he'd like to come out. >> i think the politics of afghanistan are going to collapse on both sides. they're already soft on the democratic side. i think the pull publ has had enough of the war. you can argue the policy one way or the other. i think you'll see it in the republican primaries. military victory has hangovers, but ultimately, the election is about jobs and that's the war he's not winning. >> you brought that up. let me show you the employment numbers that came out on friday. this is something different. we'll get to the unemployment in a second. approval numbers show an increase for the president, up 11 points, up 9 points in "the washington post." this was from the ft that showed some of the headlines about obama and his political standing. one shows obama gains bullet-proof credentials, raid boosts president's reputation on security, as you see it there, but this can be a fleeting moment. >> it reminds me of after the first iraq war, when the president's favorable was really
high and the economic unhappiness, the wrong track was almost equally as high. there is a maris poll number out two weeks ago, disapproval on handling the economy, also 57%, highest of his administration. if a year from now that perception of the country hasn't changed, he's incredibly vulnerable at re-election. >> i think democrats should put a poster up, like remember pearl harbor, remember george bush under one, don't let hubris get in the way. >> i think foreign policy is going to be a defining issue in the 2012 campaign, it will probably be because there is bad foreign policy news rather than good. these are halos that can dim very fast. but if the white house can transition from this being a policy victory and operational victory to this being a character victory, then i think you do have a substantial shift in the president's fortune. if he can be seen as somebody who does not lead from behind, as we've heard recently, who is decisive, who is somehow more in tune with the security of america and defending the americans, then i think that will be an important issue during the campaign and will
make it harder for a republican going up against him to say we have a weak president who is not acting in our interests. >> bob woodward, the "economist" covered this, too, which was very forward-looking, because it has, of course, osama bin laden there, but it says "now, kill his dream." the proving ground for that is this arab spring, and what can this president now do to have a positive influence on that? >> well, that's the crapshoot. you just don't know. and as we're all hinting that, of course, this is very good news, but very good news is rarely followed by better news. it's followed by bad news. and things can happen in the arabs spring, in the white house. is it yemen, is it libya, is it egypt, is it saudi arabia? all of these places are explosive. pakistan is still the powder keg of the region, but i think katty's right, it's not the foreign policy issues
necessarily, though something might explode. presidential elections are run on character. and the character trait that has emerged here, it sure is a positive at the moment, is nerve. there is a nerve matters in the presidency. people want to have a sense the president is out there looking for me. if he can take that nerve and translate it to the economic decisions, it will be good for him. >> when you make a presidential choice, it's a mosaic. it's not as much as the midterm is, which are judging the message and you're mad at people and you're mad at the economy. and this has put one part of his presidential leadership into great focus. and i think you're right, if it translates into other decisions that he makes. the problem is that the media saturates so much. and look, trump is gone now. trump was our big talk. birthers was our big talk. who knows what will be saturating us between now and then. but still, character lasts. >> yeah, there's a lot of history yet to be made.
on the foreign policy front, he's had a huge victory, but the stakes are now high, pakistan is a mess, and he's got to navigate the politics of that, where we've got to keep a relationship there because of the fragile regime of nuclear weapons, and no leash at all is worse than what we have now. >> i do want to put up the unemployment numbers, the news from this week, the end of a busy week, but it does show that the unemployment rate is 9%. there were the creation of almost 250,000 jobs, a lot of them in the private sector, which is the story that the administration wants to keep telling, but again, 9% unemployment. >> economists look at the number of jobs created. they say that's actually the positive trend and the 9% figure is less important, although of course, as you say, that's the public figure. we know that the administration would like to have unemployment rate down at something like 8% or below when it gets to the 2012 election, and i think mike, you're absolutely right, when it comes to people voting in 2012, it's going to be about jobs, it's going to be about gas prices. and the president is vulnerable there. and the surprise is that the republicans have not come up yet with a clear figure to run
against him. >> the key is, it's always a referendum against the president, and there's one rule of american politics. if the voters perceive you can't run the economy, they fire you. he's got time to make a case, but he's vulnerable. i think we'll look at this in the rearview mirror as an accomplishment. >> is it a referendum or a choice? >> happily, we don't know the future, and even those wise souls at the table here don't come close to knowing the future. >> it's going to be between two guys. >> and i thought something panetta said to the people going in to the compound in pakistan was pretty good -- go find bin laden and get the hell out. and some of these things, like the afghan war, the iraq war, some of the domestic issues, i think sometimes presidents need to make decisions and then get the hell out. and we need to limit what's on the agenda. >> all right. we're going to leave it there. we will take a break but come back in just a moment with our
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addition to being the symbolic leader of al qaeda, that osama bin laden was involved operationally in the strategic direction, direction of operations, including propaganda efforts, obviously. i think at this point, we can't declare al qaeda strategically defeated. they continue to be a threat to the united states. but we have taken a really important milestone in terms of taking down this organization. >> throughout the week, of course, and during the program this morning, there is a conversation going on online that is throughout the world. we've been monitoring tweet deck this morning. big topics, as you can imagine, that we'll show you on the big screen. osama bin laden, president obama, and bob woodward, the role of pakistan -- tom donilon told me this morning, i can tell you directly, he has not seen evidence that would lead him to believe that the military leadership had any idea that bin laden was there. that's the key question, isn't it? >> yes, and i think the information they have is stronger. they have really good, solid
intelligence that the president of pakistan, zardari, the head of the intelligence service, general pasha, did not know in advance, and they are the key elements here, but donilon also said something very important. there was a support structure there in pakistan -- >> for him, yeah. >> and the expectation is let's find that. >> mike murphy, some political notes as well. rudy giuliani on the program saying, no, he still is considering a run for 2012. at some point, he still will. is there room for him this time? >> there's room. there's always room. he's famous, he has a certain face. i don't think he could get nominated. he ran last time, campaign didn't work out. he could get in, he could be a factor. i don't think he's one of the main three or four. >> what about jon huntsman? he spoke over the weekend. his initial foray as a candid e candidate. what do you think of him? >> i think he'll almost certainly catch on in the media.
there's always room for someone to be new and interesting. i think he has a chance to catch on in new hampshire. whether or not he can roll that into nominations, we'll see how he performs, but i put him to the top of the second tier of candidates along with pawlenty and romney and maybe daniels. isn't too strong. >> i'll leave it there. before we go, happy mother's day to mine, to yours, and of course, to my beth. there are two other mothers that we're think being this morning as well, jane gillis and diane foley, who are spending this mother's day, unfortunately, worrying about their children. american journalists clair gillis and james foley, who have been detained by government forces in libya for more than a month now, and we're thinking about them as well. that is all for today. we'll be back next week. if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." few years,