White House backs Biden on audacity of Osama bin Laden raid

The White House on Tuesday defended Vice President Joe Biden's colorful claim that the daring May 2011 raid to kill Osama bin Laden was as "audacious" as any military endeavor of the last 500 years.

"I think he meant that the decision the president made ... was a very difficult one," press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.

Carney stressed that the intelligence that bin Laden lived at the compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad was of "high quality" but "not conclusive" and said the advice President Barack Obama was getting from his top national security aides about whether to order the raid was "mixed, at best."

"In the end, he had to make a very fateful decision," said Carney. "Obviously, it would have been a different story if bin Laden had not been in that compound."

So was Biden right to place the assault alongside the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944, the surprise landing at Inchon in 1950 that turned the tide of the Korean War or, going back a bit further, George Washington's daring nocturnal crossing of the Delaware River before the Battle of Trenton in 1776?

"The historical assessments I'll leave to him and others, but there's no question that this was a very very difficult decision," Carney said.

Did the vice president misspeak? "No."

Biden had told the crowd at a Democratic fundraiser in Morris Township, N.J., that "you can go back 500 years. You cannot find a more audacious plan. Never knowing for certain. We never had more than a 48 percent probability that he was there."

"Do any one of you have a doubt that if that raid failed that this guy would be a one-term president?" Biden asked, according to the media pool report from the event. "This guy is willing to do the right thing and risk losing."

The vice president also delivered a regular line that may be the pithiest "bumper sticker" re-election argument for Obama: "Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive. Think about it."

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