Rhetoric on bin Laden toned down in interview
After the Sept. 11 terror attacks, President Bush vowed to smoke out Osama bin Laden and bring him back "dead or alive" - like those Old West wanted posters.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain liked to say he would follow bin Laden to "the gates of hell."
But in an interview that aired last night on CBS, President-elect Barack Obama, even as he described Al Qaeda as the top national security threat, took a somewhat more measured approach.
"I think that we have to so weaken his infrastructure that, whether he is technically alive or not, he is so pinned down that he cannot function," Obama said.
"My preference obviously would be to capture or kill him. But if we have so tightened the noose that he's in a cave somewhere and can't even communicate with his operatives then we will meet our goal of protecting America."
In a recording released yesterday on an Islamist website, bin Laden said that Obama would "inherit a long guerrilla war against a patient, stubborn adversary."
GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, Biden's partner in the five-day fact-finding mission to Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, predicted that "casualties are likely to increase" in Afghanistan as the number of US troops there goes up this year.
The Pentagon is rushing as many as 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, seeking to turn the tide in fighting that has seen Al Qaeda-linked militants and the Taliban make a comeback after initial defeats in the US-led invasion in 2001.
Biden and Graham gave Obama an initial report on their trip to the four countries, all central to America's security agenda and the broader war on terror, at Obama's transition headquarters.
They will present the president-elect later with a more detailed accounting, including recommendations for action based on what they saw and heard.
For starters, Capitol Hill Democrats are trying to use the economic recovery bill to extend a tax cut for middle- to upper-income taxpayers despite concerns from Obama's transition team that it won't boost the economy.
Representative Charles Rangel of New York, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said lawmakers in both the House and Senate want to use the stimulus package to make the annual fix to the alternative minimum tax to prevent more than 20 million additional tax filers from having to pay it.
Making that fix for one year alone would cost about $70 billion, a healthy chunk out of the approximately $300 billion that Obama has set aside for tax cuts.