Skip to main content

For one day, anyway, Republicans praise Obama

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
'Bin Laden death important moment'
  • NEW: Obama gets prolonged standing ovation at dinner for congressional leaders
  • Conservatives say President Obama properly followed Bush policies
  • Obama deserves the credit, says Rep. King, usually an administration critic
  • Even Rush Limbaugh offers qualified praise, with a bit of sarcasm

Washington (CNN) -- For one day at least, conservative voices united in grudging praise of President Barack Obama over the U.S. special forces operation that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

From House Speaker John Boehner to Republican Rep. Peter King of New York and, to a lesser degree, even radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, comments from the political right Monday were missing their usual criticism of Obama's leadership to focus on the president's decision to launch the successful mission that took out bin Laden.

Some politics were involved, of course.

Conservatives emphasized that Obama had followed policies launched by former President George W. Bush. In the face of possible cuts to defense spending, they noted the need for continued vigilance in the Afghanistan war as well as on the anti-terrorism front.

At the same time, though, they said it was only fair to give credit where credit is due.

"There are going to be political benefits to the president from this. He deserves it," King, the House Homeland Security Committee chairman, said in an interview with Fox Business. "If this had gone wrong, he would have been hurt very bad politically. It goes right, he should get the benefit of it."

King added that "we can debate other issues, but no one in our country, in our party should debate or question what the president did here."

Powell: Threat of terrorism still exists
Powell: Justice has finally been done
'This is a good day for America'

"He did the right thing," said King, who has frequently criticized the Obama administration over its desire to shut down the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility and hold civilian trials for terror suspects in the United States. "He did it brilliantly and he deserves all the credit for it."

Boehner, in a brief statement to reporters, sounded like Obama in saying the "good news" of bin Laden's elimination showed that "what unites us as Americans is far greater than what divides us."

He cited the need for continued efforts to defeat terrorist enemies, emphasizing the importance of the Afghanistan war and anti-terrorism efforts in Pakistan.

Boehner, R-Ohio, also commended Obama and Bush "for all their efforts to bring Osama bin Laden to justice." He took no questions at the end of the remarks with other House Republican leaders.

Retired Gen. Colin Powell, a moderate Republican who served as secretary of state under Bush, told CNN that Obama handled the situation brilliantly.

The choice was between bombing the compound or sending in the assault team in a high-risk mission, Powell said. While bombing would be easier, "you never would have been able to be sure you had gotten Osama bin Laden," he said.

From Limbaugh, the comments sounded positive but contained a load of sarcasm.

"Ladies and gentleman, we need to open the program today by congratulating President Obama," he said in his syndicated daily radio show. "President Obama has done something extremely effective, and when he does, this needs to be pointed out."

The military wanted to bomb the bin Laden compound, but it was Obama who insisted on using special forces in order to get the DNA evidence necessary to prove the mission's success, Limbaugh said, adding that the president "single-handedly understood what was at stake here."

According to Limbaugh, Obama's success came from following the policies of Bush.

"We need to never forget that President Obama deserves praise for continuing the policies established by George W. Bush which led to the learning, the acquisition of this intel that led us to the enlarged hut in Pakistan that led to the assassination of bin Laden last night," Limbaugh declared. "Thank God for President Obama. If he had not been there, who knows what would've happened."

Later, Limbaugh's sarcasm became more evident.

"I, me, my -- three of the most used words in President Obama's media appearance last night," Limbaugh said. "Not a single intelligence adviser, not a single national security adviser, military adviser, came up with the idea ... not one of them ... according to Obama, had the ability to understand the need to get DNA."

With Congress reconvening Monday after a two-week break, it was unclear if the positive fallout from the bin Laden story would inspire a more unified approach to major issues facing legislators such as deficit reduction and the national debt ceiling.

Obama urged that kind of cooperative spirit in remarks Monday night to a White House dinner for congressional leaders.

At the mention of the successful mission to eliminate bin Laden, the president received a prolonged standing ovation from his dozens of guests, who included Cabinet members and top senators and U.S. representatives from both parties, including Boehner.

Citing the public reaction to the bin Laden news that included spontaneous celebrations at the White House, ground zero and other places across the country, Obama said it reminded everyone of the pride shared by Americans in "what this nation stands for and what we can achieve that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics."

He noted that upcoming debates on deficit reduction and the federal debt ceiling would be difficult and likely continue the political disagreements of the past.

"It is my fervent hope that we can harness some of that unity and some of that pride to confront the many challenges we still face," Obama said.

CNN's Rebecca Stewart and Tom Cohen contributed to this story.