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That was to some degree unavoidable. Bush’s consistent failure to respond appropriately to bin Laden — as a potential threat, as a fugitive, or as a public enemy no. 1 — represents one of the greatest shortcomings of his presidency.
Obama has now succeeded where Bush failed. And it was impossible to hear Obama declare that “justice has been done” without thinking about how long it went undone.
But Obama also went out of his way to draw distinctions between how he approached the problem and how Bush did.
For instance, as the months and years went by after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — and Bush’s initial bluster about capturing the al Qaeda leader “dead or alive” became a source of embarrassment — Bush began to insist that bin Laden himself wasn’t so very important.
“I truly am not that concerned about him,” Bush said at a White House press conference on March 13, 2002. And of course the following March, he shifted America’s focus to Iraq, which proved to be a gigantic diversion.
Obama took a different tack.